It wouldn’t be an underestimate to say that this has been the most enjoyable chipped official race of my life, so far. After the ridiculously slow race I’d run in the icy conditions at Livingston in February, and with the Smokies being postponed due to the Beast From the East, it felt like this was my first proper chipped, timed race in over a decade. (I’d written off Livingston as a learning experience.) The races I ran in the mid 2000’s were never enjoyable because I was always woefully under-trained for them (my “training” largely consisting of Body Combat classes rather than any actual running). I was however really well trained for this, managing 50 – 60km per week consistently for several weeks and with several 10 mile+ runs under my belt. The last one had been in a surprisingly fast time (about 1:16) just 6 days previously, after also smashing my Parkrun PB the previous day, so I felt I had a good chance of doing better than I’d initially hoped here, and really, really wanted a good race to make up for February. I said I’d be happy with anything under 1:20, but really I wanted sub 1:18, and my stretch goal was 1:15. I’d arranged to car share with a few running group/ Parkrun friends, and David kindly drove us through to Perth. We were there in plenty of time. Registration was well organised and we got our race numbers and timing chips without having to queue for more than a minute. The hall was quite warm, and David persuaded me to lose the compression top I had on under my vest, and to wear the thinner of the two pairs of gloves I had brought. It was cold outside though, and I wasn’t sure I’d made the right choice.
The route begins in the athletics arena (actually just by the exit gate this year) and starts off with a short run along the road to get to the beautiful North Inch park. The route mostly follows the banks of the River Tay and River Almond, and is largely on tarmac with some trail sections. Part of the route had to be altered this year due to roadworks, so there was a looped section that took us away from the scenic river banks and into more mundane roads and houses, but not for too long.
Based on the run I had done on Monday, I was planning to stick to around 8:15 per mile pace for the first mile, then increase the pace to around 7:40 per mile and see how I felt at that. However, within half a mile I realised I was going sub 7:30, and it felt comfortable. It was a little congested near the start but not too much, and I was definitely trying to find people to pace me around 7:20 – 25 which felt comfortable, and not make the mistake of going off too fast. A lot of non-runners were using the park and I made a point of saying “Good morning” to most of them: this was partly out of natural politeness, but also to test my breathing and effort levels. Once round the outside of park we headed back up the other side, this time on the banks of the Tay.
Despite moving fairly quickly (about 7:20 per mile), I was able to take in the gorgeous view of the Tay off to my right hand side. It really was cracking weather – a very pleasant surprise after the freezing sleet we’d had just the morning beforehand. The route continues along the banks of the Tay for a further stretch past the park, where I caught up with a couple of fellow Footers, then turns off left to follow the banks of the smaller River Almond. The route becomes more tree-lined, and some sections are gravel rather than tarmac. I’d noticed my pace was still increasing at this point, and was feeling strong but was also slightly concerned that I still had a long way to go. I caught up with a nice lady called Denise shortly before the first water station at 4.5 miles, and asked what time she was aiming for. It turned out she was mainly a hill runner, but was enjoying the luxury of a flat course. We ran together for a while which kept me going through a mid-race wobble. I then spotted the Dundee runner whom I’d been chatting to at Montrose Parkrun the previous week. I caught up with the lady not long after the halfway point and we had a brief chat before I headed off. She finished less than a minute behind me and was the first FV50 finisher.
Slightly beyond the halfway point, maybe around 6 miles in, you follow a loop that turns you back around, and this part takes you away from the nice river setting for a short while, and instead through residential areas. Not for long though, and you get back to the Almond shortly after the 7 mile marker. Shortly after this point you are back on the return leg and head back along the Tay and through North Inch park along the same path but in the opposite direction. From the time we had left the residential areas I had noticed that the number of runners round about me was thinning out, and I was also starting to pass some female runners that were running solo. From around the 7.5 mile point, back along the Tay banks, most of the guys I passed said “Well done” as I headed past them. A few of them looked like they had gone out just that bit too fast to have the energy for a quick finish, but I also noticed that my pace had picked up to around 7:00 minutes per mile: I was actually speeding up! Around the 8 mile mark I asked a lady I was passing if she knew how many women were up ahead of us, but she had no idea. I figured there would be a fair few, but so far ahead they had probably got near or into the stadium by that point and were out of sight.
Although a couple of miles at least were the same as the outward leg, the last half mile differed from the first section, as you head into the stadium from the bottom end of the park rather than the top end. If you’re not careful you can end up running onto the golf course, but luckily the marshals stopped me running into the line of a golf ball! I knew my watch had been buzzing the miles about 100 metres before the mile markers, so wasn’t sure exactly how long I had to go. I passed Andy (who got a great side view photo of me with “flying feet”) and headed towards the stadium. I’d been doing close to 7 minutes per mile for miles 8 and 9, but had slowed a little in the last mile. I wanted to pick up the pace but wasn’t sure where the finish line was and didn’t want to sprint in case we had to do a full 400m lap of the track. When I got into the stadium I saw the finish line was about 100 metres away, near the end of the first leg of the track, and sprinted past the guy who was already on the track. The clock said 72-something and I was stunned. I’d been doing the arithmetic in my head based on my mile splits and thought 1:14 was doable (in fact, I’d nearly started crying around the 8 mile point when I was passing those guys and worked that out), but I knew I had more than 10 miles to do by my watch readings, and so wasn’t sure I’d make 1:14.
I got over the line and was so dumbstruck and incapable of doing anything that one of the volunteers on timing chip duties actually untied my shoelaces, took off the timing chip, then tied my shoe again for me. Thank you, and I’m sorry I was momentarily useless! The guy I’d sprinted past shook hands with me, as did the guy after him, then we were ushered to collect our goodie bags, and had medals put over our heads. There was no t-shirt (I already have plenty of those), but the medal was much larger than I’d expected, and feels really high quality. The design is lovely too. I was very impressed. The goodie bag contained a bottle of Highland Spring water, which was quickly opened, a packet of Mackies haggis crisps (which I have been known to enjoy at games nights, thanks Barbara), two appropriate (given it was Easter Sunday) bags of Cadbury’s mini eggs, and of course a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer. All in all I thought this was a pretty decent haul.
I found David, who had had a cracking race and finished in around 1:06, who was looking cheerful, and his friend Rich who had passed me around the 2 mile point and who I’d kept in my sights for a few miles but knew was going too fast for me to run with. Not long afterwards Jagoda appeared, then Chris, and various other people we’d driven through with, ran with in our respective clubs, or knew from Parkrun or other races. The atmosphere in the stadium was good even though it wasn’t overly busy, and everyone looked really happy. A lot of us had got PBs, the sun was shining, and some of us (naming no names) were happily scoffing all the food from the goodie bags.
We weren’t intending sticking around for the prize-giving as we’d already neglected our families for long enough on Easter Sunday, but by the time we had got changed and scarfed down some food, the prize-giving started so we decided to stick around. The lady who won 3rd female and the F40 prize was in the middle of getting a sports massage, and had to hop off the massage table not once but twice to collect her prizes. I was very happy to see that Margaret had won the F50 prize, and popped over to congratulate her before we left. It was a really well organised race, all the marshals and volunteers were fantastic and it’ll be a hard act to follow.
I finished with a time of 1:12:41 in 55th position and was 11th female and 4th F40. I was utterly amazed by how well I did – so much so that I nearly burst into tears. It wasn’t just that the training had paid off though. The whole race just had a great atmosphere, the weather was on our side (I even got slightly sun-burned!), and the running community is just fantastic. I only wish I’d taken up running 20+ years ago.
This was a fantastic introduction to 10 mile races for me. A nice flat run in beautiful surroundings on a mostly tarmac course with some easy trails and lovely park and river views. The event was so well organised it was hard to find anything to fault, other than the possibility that the route was ever so slightly long (my Garmin said 10.09 miles), though that might just have been me. I’m not sure it would have been quite so amazing in bad weather, but the day was almost magical for me. I ran it a few minutes faster than my stretch goal, and had enough left in the tank for a strong sprint finish at the end. I kept waiting for the hard part of the race, but none materialised. There aren’t many 10 mile races, but I think it’s a really nice distance, and if you’re looking for a fast, flat, potential PB course in lovely surroundings then add this to your list. I’ll definitely be back!
Photographs were taken by some of the great photographers who were there on the day: Gordon Donnachie, Wullie Law, Roy Mitchell, and Fiona Morrison. The “flying feet” photo is courtesy of fellow Montrose Parkrunner Andy Scott. Permission was kindly granted for use of the photos.