Friday, 7 December 2012

7 Reservoirs Half Marathon

I love my running, but lets face it grinding out yet another city 10k or half marathon can be a bit boring. I'm probably not going to get any faster at these distances so they're not particularly high up on my race radar. I'm trying to focus more on Ultras and events with a bit of character or some unique element about them.
When I saw a Facebook post about the inaugural 7 Reservoirs race, round the Pentland Hills on Sunday 2nd December, it ticked both the quirky and new boxes, so I signed up pronto!, in what I hoped was a good augury the 100 available places sold out in 24 hours.
Preceding a trail half marathon with two solid days of Christmas shopping in Edinburgh may not have been ideal, but you're probably starting to gather that my recent pre race prep has been at best, a bit rubbish!
Threipmuir Reservoir
Registration was at Harelaw farm near Balerno on a stunningly clear, crisp and cold morning and with a good mile to walk to the start line at Threipmuir reservoir it was a fine line between arriving just in time and freezing your rocks off by arriving too early. I chatted with fellow Doonhamers Frank Skachill, Susan Gallagher and Dawn McDonald and Sandra kindly snapped us for posterity, all wrapped up like Nanook of the North.
Four Eskimo's
For once someone had the foresight to organise a PA system for the race briefing so I could actually hear every word. The RD described the course as "completely runnable", (note to self - file "runnable" in the same category as undulating or challenging!) and although the blow by blow description of the route probably helped if you knew the area I lost interest quickly as A - it was bl**dy freezing and B - pre race nerves prompted a fellow runner in the huddle to let rip a thunderous comic book fart and my inner school boy prompted me to a fit of the giggles.
So with absolutely no idea about the route a quick countdown saw the 78 starters setting off.
A bit with NO ice!
I'd love to give you a blow by blow description of the twists and turns of the race and route, the personal challenges as pairs of runners vied for supremacy, the tactics and route choices the triumph of age, wisdom and stamina over youth, fitness and eagerness but the reality was more prosaic, I spent the next hour and 55 minutes mostly trying not to fall over.
The race route is staggeringly beautiful but if you weren't running on ice, you were running on frozen puddles, heavily frosted roads, solid frozen waterlogged boggy bits or snow. Actually  the snow was the easy bit, except where it had fallen on top of ................ you guessed it more ice!
The view from the top
In just over six years of serious running I've never fallen over, not once, ever! I've come close but I'd never actually hit the dirt. On Sunday I full on face planted 4 times, missed falling into a reservoir by a whisker, lost count of the times I nearly fell over whilst exhibiting all the balletic grace of a hyper active break dancer.
One near miss saw my entire bottom half slip to the right, whist my top half pirouetted to the left and I felt something muscular in my left boob go PING, but you know what? I loved it, it's a race I would unhesitatingly do again and I say this as someone who spent most of the race thinking this is absolute madness I'm trying to run on sheet ice!
As I ran in the last mile, I passed Susan Gallagher and Ian Beattie, my weather numbed brain couldn't work out where they'd passed me, it turned out that Susan had taken a nasty fall and Ian with his local knowledge had helped Susan take a short cut back. Susan is going to be laid up and off running for a few weeks and probably deserves a medal for making it back with such a serious injury, get well soon Susan.
My last fall of the day came just after a footbridge over the final reservoir spillway, despite the warnings of a marshall, I admit I was too busy showboating and crashed down in an undignified heap, a short climb up the reservoir bank and a final 300m run straight along the embankment to the finish and a cheer and a hug from Sandra McDougall.
I had no idea how I'd placed, I knew I'd been passed by at least 3 ladies but I'd raced pretty much the whole distance in the company and view of the same 4 guys. It turns out I managed 23rd out of 75 finishers in 1:55:09, almost certainly my slowest ever half marathon, bruised, cut and bashed but exhilarated, what a great event.
Post race tea and coffee and the most incredible selection of cakes was accompanied by everyone swapping "war stories" of ice, falls and near falls and how totally mad it was to run that distance in those conditions, fortunately with the exception of Susan I don't think there were any other serious hurts.
I pointed out to the RD that his characterisation of the route as entirely runnable, was optimistic, with a smile on his face he retorted "what I said was it was entirely runnable yesterday", oh well I'll chalk that one up to experience!
Huge thanks must go to Harmeny Pentland Runners for organising the event, and particular praise to the marshals who stood in sub zero temperatures to make sure we were kept on track.
As for my injuries, one bloodied knee, very sore quads, several bruises, bizarrely a huge insect bite and a left boob which protests every time I run over 2 miles, something of a disadvantage as I'm trying to complete the Marcothon.

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