I've just discovered the joy of taking part in a race purely for fun.
No pressure of times, position, paces or PB's, no thoughts of what did I run this in last time, no thoughts of saving myself for the big sprint finish, just starting, finishing and enjoying the bit in between.
I've always liked the idea of taking part in a BIG Santa dash event, you know the kind of thing where everyone wears a Santa suit, dresses like Rudolf or the world's fattest least attractive Christmas fairy.
I'd tentatively suggested we could make it a Harriers away day but was underwhelmed by the response, so ultimately it ended up an Ainslie only trip, well daughter, father and 5500 other people dressed as Santa.
I was on a three line whip, to run with daughter Sarah and not get carried away and go haring off on my own from the start. There was something very surreal about queuing among a sea of red and white, mostly wearing the "one size fits nobody" suits included in your £15 entry fee. There was a great mix of young, old, families, groups and the (very) occasional serious runner in Lycra, looking for once, quite out of place on the start line of a race.
There was a non-stop pre-race commentary, by some bloke from local radio who may or may not have been famous, "give us a cheer if you're from Edinburgh"....Greeted with silence and a mass warm-up by Elaine or Lorraine, who almost certainly hadn't just flown in specially from Los Angeles for the warm up routine. all academic as no one could see her, so any careful choreography soon disappeared as we all just bounced up and down enthusiastically. Not so much a warm up as a stay warm to combat the occasional sleety flurry.
Almost bang on 9:30 a quick count down and we were off! Or rather so were lots of beards, belts, hats and the occasional part of red breeks as well as thousands of runners.
I've has experience of the joys of running in a £1.99 Santa suit before so had prudently brought string to ensure our trousers stayed up and our modesty remained intact!
The event starts in George Square and heads west up St Vincent Street, the sight looking back down to the start was awesome, the road was simply a sea of red and white all the way back down, my photo doesn't do it justice.
The route continues on crossing over the M8 before turning left before the SECC, you head towards the iconic Finnieston crane, before turning back onto the Broomielaw. At this point Sarah pointed out 3 Santa's who had stopped and rewarded themselves with a mid race MacDonald s, now there's a racing novelty!
There wasn't a huge amount of support on the course, but I suppose that's the inevitable compromise if you're going to close off great chunks of main roads in central Glasgow, you've got to do it early in the morning before too many people are up and about. Having said that you don't need support from the roadside when thousands around you are running in Santa suits in various states of soggy disintegration. The route then turns North just before the Central Station taking you under the famous Heilanmans umbrella before a penultimate turn onto Buchanan Street, with the massed ranks dodging early morning shoppers in that most famous of shopping streets, a final right turn back onto St Vincent Street and back through the finish arch on George Square. Although my Garmin had duly recorded the 3.1 miles, Sarah and I had spent pretty much the whole time blathering away not caring how long it took us. Not a timing clock in sight we crossed the line half an hour(ish) after we started and collected our most fabulous Santa themed medal, a nice quality piece of race bling.
What a great experience, I'm sure there were a few speed demons charging off the front, but this was definitely an event mostly about participation and a fantastic atmosphere from start to finish, and certainly one I'd recommend.
I have a sneaking suspicion that our own Dumfries Harriers Santa run with 20 participants, running around Dumfries in the dark, might not be quite the same experience.
Ho Ho Ho