This time of year traditionally marks the start of “fun run” season for me. My goal races for the year are done, I’m building a base ahead of spring marathon training and there are a number of opportunities to have a bit of fun in some less competitive events or events where fancy dress is a requirement. I picked up a flyer ages ago for this Hallowe’en-themed event organised by CHAS (Children’s Hospice Association Scotland), a fantastic children’s charity, but was unsure whether or not I would take part given the situation with my hip. However with some pain-free running under my belt over the past three weeks I decided it was time to tweet how I fared with my usual weekend routine of back-to-back runs, and since Steve was providing the warmup for the CHAS event, I made a last-minute decision to go along and run rather than heading out for a wee solo plod.
I had no idea whether or not I would be able to sign up on the day, but was reluctant to sign up in advance as I wanted to wait and see how I felt after parkrun on the Saturday morning, however checking the event website later on Saturday online entry had closed but it said I could go along on Sunday morning and pay my entry fee. Entries in advance were £12.50 to run, £15 to run and get an event T-shirt. I turned up around 10:15 on Saturday morning to give myself plenty of time to sort out my entry, return to the car with the bits and pieces I didn’t need to run and nip to the toilet before the start. I was greeted by very friendly volunteers and registration was really simple: I just had to fill out the back of a race number with my details and they made note of those on their records while I collected my T-shirt and various devil accoutrements. The on the day entry prices were the same as in advance, which is not always the case, and since it was for a charity I paid the extra £2.50 for the Tshirt.
The race started and finished at the George Duncan athletics track, a familiar location for me, and I knew I would be able to park the car nearby and have use of the arena toilets before the event. All very civilised. Once organised and ready to run (I opted to leave my forked tail and pitchfork in the car, but donned my horns and hoped they would stay put!) I returned to the arena to chat to Steve and take in the atmosphere for a few minutes.
It being a fun run, there were lots of families and less experienced runners as well as a few more competitive-looking types. Steve had decided not to run, instead running to the track, conducting the warmup and running home so he would get a longer training run, so this was a solo effort for me. I did spot some people I knew though, so was able to chat a bit around the warmup (even when it’s Steve I’m still not a fan of the mass warmup and take part reluctantly) and on the start line.
Remembering my experience at the Caped Crusader 5k back in July, I decided to start right up front, as did my friend Marianne who is a fantastic short distance runner.
After one or two announcements about the route and the facilities available, we were counted UP to 6.66(!) and we were off.
Very quickly, I found myself one of the front runners. I had no idea what I had as it’s been a few weeks since I ran on consecutive days and I’m in that place where my legs want to go faster than the rest of my body is ready for, but having maintained a really even 8 minutes per mile average at parkrun the day before, I figured something around 8:15 per mile might happen since I would have another mile or so to run. (Side note, I hadn’t entirely settled in my own head what 6.66km would be. I worked it out to be about 4.1 miles, but course measurement at fun runs can be a little rough so figured on anything between 4 and 4.5). But even without knowing exactly how far the course was as a number of miles, I knew the course geographically so at any time knew exactly how far I still had to go.
With each run I’ve been feeling better and better, so given the race environment (and my possibly arrogant feeling that I could place quite far up the field) I went out quite hard to really blow the cobwebs away and ended up with a first mile of 7:45! Looking at my Garmin stats, what followed was a gradual mile-by-mile slowing of my pace, ending up with an 8:03 per mile average. What that doesn’t take into account is the conditions. Having started hard I felt I actually ran fairly consistently around an 8 minute mile, however there was a bit of a headwind in places which inevitably had an effect. Still, given my lack of running at any pace, let alone speedy running lately, I’m pleased with how my body handled it – I even picked up a few Strava PRs!
The route took us from the track, down a short path which leads to the North Inch where we ran two laps before retracing our steps back to the track to finish. As the field stretched out I reckoned I was the second female (after Marianne) and maybe in around 4th position overall, but with a local club runner and his grandson right behind me so I fully expected them to pass me at some point.
The course was really well marshalled with lots of friendly volunteers and there was a water stop, which I didn’t use, about halfway around the Inch so we passed it twice. By the time I was on my second lap I was catching up with groups who were walking the course (there was something quite amusing about coming up behind lots of people with horns and forked tails!) but they all moved aside to allow the runners to pass. The Inch was also fairly busy with general Sunday dog walkers, cyclists and groups taking the air on a sunny and mild day, but there was still plenty of space to run.
Leaving the Inch for the return to the track, I was passed by the club runner and his grandson (we had been back and forth throughout the race) and with that finish line energy that only kids can produce, they shot away leaving me no hope of catching them once more. I could see them finishing just as I entered the track for the final few metres and enjoyed the springy surface under my feet. I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 32:43, having run a bit beyond 4 miles. I was handed a goody bag and Marianne was waiting with the news that I was indeed second lady. She ran brilliantly and was not only first lady, but second overall, which is fantastic. There are no official results, but I think I was sixth overall, so a top ten finish.
I spent a few minutes chatting to Marianne since I’ve not seen her in a while and then realised that she had a medal. I wasn’t sure if they were for all participants or just the top finishers, so headed off to ask. It turned out that they were originally intended for everyone, but a last minute flurry of entries had left them a little short so they were prioritising the top three finishers and the children, which is fair enough. Marianne pointed out that I was second lady and the volunteer said there might be some left at the end, but I was heading off and didn’t want to wait. She took my details and promised to send one out to me. It would be nice to have a medal, but since I wasn’t expecting one and think it’s important that the children get one, I was quite happy with the situation as it was. It would have been a different story if that was a really serious race and I had signed up well in advance rather than a charity fun run I entered at the last minute!
After a bit more chatting I headed home and had a bit of fun donning all my various devilish accessories for some photos.
I also dug into my goody bag where I found the usual array of leaflets, a balloon, a pack of inflatable “noise makers”, some sweets and what may very well be the greatest (and most random) thing I’ve ever received in a race goody bag: one of those plastic parachutist toys! I haven’t seen one of those in years but am definitely not too old to have a play with it, quite possibly by chucking it over the bannister and watching it float down the stairs!
All in all, I had a fantastic morning. It was great to run hard again and see where my fitness is right now; it was lovely to catch up with Marianne; and finishing as second lady was a nice boost to my confidence after some difficult and disappointing weeks as far as my running is concerned. Sometimes turning up to an event like this is just the thing to make you feel good about your running again, while also helping out a deserving charity. Oh, and those devil horns did stay in place the whole time. Impressive!