The Forfar 10K is a cheerful local event organised annually by the Forfar Road Runners, and I’ve been attending it every year since 2014. It’s always set in August, and as a result, my previous Forfar 10Ks have been some of the most notoriously hot and muggy races I have ever participated in. Earlier in the year, I had joked that the Forfar 10K was the only day in summer you’d be guaranteed good weather for a barbecue, it had such a consistent track record of scorching sunshine the previous four years.
On the slippery and puddle-filled drive to registration at the Forfar football club I was very glad I hadn’t organised that barbecue. It had rained heavily during the night and the thick grey clouds blanketing the sky suggested that it might evolve into more than just the light drizzle we were dealing with at registration.
We arrived just before it got busy, so I left my support crew for the day (thanks Craig!) outside in the rain while I darted in to retrieve my number. I almost ended up with the wrong one as, strangely enough, there was more than one Debbie/Deborah racing that day and not only that, one with a very similar last name! I instantly grew competitive and vowed to be the best Debbie of the day!
It would quickly turn out that getting competitive with someone you don’t know is very difficult, and according to the results and a confused Craig who thought he’d missed me when her name was announced at the finish, she beat me by a full five minutes.
Along with my number, I was also tagged with a little blue armband so I could pick up my goody bag at the end of the race. I was quite delighted with this, as in previous years the goody bags were provided at the start of the race, which usually involved a frantic dash to the car to get rid of them before anyone could consider starting.
An early visit to the loos before the queue got too long and I headed back out into the drizzle to see if I could recognise anyone. We found the friendly faces of the Brechin Road Runners fairly quickly, now sporting their rather swish new club vests, and Pauline was acting as race photographer for the day, snapping away with multiple cameras while simultaneously being handed a hefty number of bags and car keys.
And does anyone remember the woman I affectionately nicknamed as ‘Walk Run Repeat Lady’ from the Stirling marathon? She recognised me and came over to say hi, and even introduced herself by the nickname I’d given her in the blog post! Update: Her name is Linda and she’s lovely. (If you’re reading this, hi Linda! Sorry I didn’t recognise you straight away, I spent most of our time together at the Stirling marathon looking at the back of your head, not the front!)
With all the chatter and socialising, the race briefing started quickly with an emphasis on staying on pavements and no headphones since it’s an open road event. And I’m pleased to report that everyone seemed to respect that rule along the course! I didn’t see nor hear any sign of a headphone during the race!
The runners started to line up according to their approximate finish times and I wandered my way to the back, not having huge expectations for myself on this occasion. With the Loch Ness Marathon looming, the Forfar 10K was just getting thrown in with the rest of the mileage, so there had been no tapering or speedwork in the lead up to it. I hadn’t bothered to check my previous course records that morning due to preferring to hit the snooze button on my alarm, so I thought I’d try for a reasonable 1 hour 10 and see what happened.
I had started side by side with Linda, but quickly lost her in the crowd as everyone charged over the starting mat and down into Market Street. Pauline was ready with the cameras as I rounded the first corner, and managed to get some great and terrible photographs of me in equal measure. Thankfully I hadn’t been running long enough to turn my usual shade of cherry red at this point, but I’m notorious for having my eyes closed in photos and today was no different.
The crowds were thick early on in the race, everyone determined to keep to the pavements as much as possible after the race briefing, and I was stuck at a slow and steady pace behind several other runners as we sloped up the hill toward Whitehills hospital. I managed to find some space and do a few overtakes on the uphill, giving me a nice morale boost as I hit the 1km marker.
The marshals did a great job of ushering us across the road without delay, and I looked forward to stretching out my legs on the downhill and picking up some speed. And that’s around the point I realised something wasn’t quite going to plan, the people overtaking me looked incredibly familiar. The folk I overtook were catching up to me again on the downhill! I put on a burst of speed to compensate….and discovered I didn’t have it.
Remember how I said the Forfar 10K was getting thrown in with the rest of the mileage? Well it turns out I had opted for a rather hilly 11-ish mile training run about two days before, and my legs hadn’t recovered quite as quickly as I’d hoped. My gait was stuck at a steady jog, and any attempts to speed up felt like my legs were moving through syrup. I remembered the old adage, ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and while I had serious doubts about winning I figured I could at least finish with a decent time.
The second kilometre took us through the outskirts of Forfar and into Gowanbank, and it seemed to go on forever. It wasn’t until I reached the end of Gowanbank when I saw the 3km marker that I realised I had missed the 2km sign somewhere along the way and I wasn’t dragging my heels quite as much as I’d feared. It was about 21 minutes into the race, and I figured if I could keep up my steady 7 minute per kilometre pace I’d manage my randomly selected goal of 1 hour 10.
The third kilometre took us down the winding Montrose road out of Forfar and into the countryside. It might have been an open road event but I don’t remember seeing more than a couple of cars along the way. The drizzle had stopped for the most part but there was still a light wind and it was nice and overcast. The running conditions were ideal for me, so I was oddly optimistic despite the sandbags I felt I was lugging around in lieu of my legs.
I found kilometre four near the Laird quarry and followed the road until I saw the sign for kilometre five. I hit the half way point at 35 minutes, and was in high spirits until I spotted two very flat hedgehogs on the road that I didn’t dare look too closely at in case I lost my breakfast. Thankfully some marshals and eager spectators were shouting encouragement up ahead and provided adequate distraction from the grim sight.
I sloped down the hill and from there onto a narrower country road, lined each side with lush fields and grazing cows. Somehow, I caught up with a couple of ladies despite my dead legs and proceeded with the most awkwardly long overtake of all time. So long in fact that both parties felt the need to fill the silence and we managed to have an entire conversation before I finally managed to pull away.
I saw the sign for the water station ahead, and wanting to look semi-respectable upon arrival, tried to blow my nose while running and ended up with a mess on my face. It was okay, I wasn’t so close to the water station that anyone could see my mishap, except the cyclist approaching from the other way.
Who, upon cycling closer, was revealed to be my former PE teacher from school.
I kind of wanted the ground to swallow me up at this point, knowing I was the approximate shade of a fire hydrant and with snot covering half my face, but figured she might not recognise me.
Damn. She recognised me.
This is probably the only downside to local races. Sometimes, people you know in a more professional setting will see you in all your makeup-free wind-blown red-cheeked snot-covered occasionally-bush-vomiting glory. I consoled myself that as a PE teacher she would at least be able to appreciate the effort I was clearly putting in.
I cleaned myself up before grabbing a sip of water at the water station, the rest going over my head in a bid to cool down. At least my PE teacher didn’t see me almost miss my own face.
Kilometres six and seven were a nice variety of flats and uphill climbs, and I was more than a little impressed with myself for keeping a steady pace up the hills. In previous years I usually ended up walking up the hills or heaving for breath at the top. The pace I was stuck at made the hills quite comfortable though, and that there is a sentence I never thought I’d type. A comfortable hill!?
Kilometre eight had a few more houses as we approached the outskirts of Forfar again, and I was pleased to have gained a little on the runners in front. The long gap that had started to build during kilometres three and four had gotten a lot shorter, and I was nipping at the heels of the runner in front whenever she was forced to walk.
There was a beast of a hill just before the 9 km sign post, and I was so focused on maintaining my pace I almost had a heart attack when I spotted someone sporting a very strange bright orange mask, sitting on one of the parked cars to spectate. I have no idea what character/nightmare the kid was dressed as, but I complimented him on his mask and tried to get my heart rate under control again for the hill.
The runner in front was forced into a walk again, and I thought I’d finally manage the overtake I’d been attempting for the last two kilometres. It wasn’t to be though, as my encouraging ‘almost there! 1km to go!’ was clearly too encouraging and she sped off quicker than my clockwork legs could handle.
I followed her dust through the industrial estate, where I found Pauline still snapping away like crazy, taking her role as race photographer very seriously and getting photos of pretty much everyone. So if you’re looking for a race photo check in with Pauline!
I plodded through the industrial estate and after a couple of well-marshalled corners that stopped me from getting lost, it was back onto Market Street and the little slope to the finish. There I saw my chance! The runner in front had slowed down for the final small hill, and my legs were burning as I forced them just that little bit faster than they wanted to go.
I (finally!) overtook just before the finish, and stumbled across the line to receive my medal and bottle of water at the end. I proudly displayed my little blue armband to the volunteers with the goody bags, where I was promptly told “don’t worry, we know you’ve ran it.”
I pondered how they could possibly know such a thing without the armband for a minute until I found Craig, where he promptly answered the question for me by explaining “duh, you look like a beetroot!” Thanks, Craig.
I picked up my chip time of 1:10:17 and caught up with Brechin Road Runners who were all looking fresh and accomplished, boasting some awesome times. I’m always impressed with folk who can get a good time on the Forfar course because it’s probably one of my slowest 10ks.
At home, I admired my medal which turned out to be exactly the same as last year’s. I didn’t mind, as I’d been pondering how on earth they were going to top the local Balmashanner war memorial medal from the year before. A quick check of my times also revealed that despite my dead legs, I was a whole minute faster than 2017. Unfortunately, 2016 me still holds the course PB of 1:10:08. Look out 2016 me, I’ll be coming for that record next year!
I might not have been going fast, but the relative ease I handled the course makes me think my running might have levelled up a bit compared to previous years. One benefit of my knackered clockwork legs was that my Strava split times have never been so consistent over any distance, ever, and I finished the course feeling pretty strong and ready for an extra few kilometres.
I came in 291st of the 316 runners that day, but with Loch Ness in just 5 weeks’ time I feel I treated it more as a training run than a full-on race. But I’m super happy with the results, and am proud to say that I feel more than prepared for the first quarter of the Loch Ness Marathon. The next three-quarters after that, who knows?