Noteworthy events come in many forms and they do not have to be the big distance training runs or races. No single component of this weekend’s events was in and of itself particularly challenging; most were light-hearted, and in combination they all took their toll and contributed cumulatively to a mini-epic and a memorable couple of days.
The Perth Kilt Run was first on the agenda. This was an attempt to achieve a Guinness World Record for the largest kilt race on the globe and you would have thought that it was not beyond Scotland to take this record off of Perth, Canada. We got to Perth (Scotland) strategically parking the car for a quick exit from the town as I had a train to catch in Dundee later. We got ourselves registered and went to visit our friend Kieran German at Excel Wines. A coffee and a bowl of soup later, we headed over to the North Inch where crowds had gathered for the 1000 piper celebrations. A final application of vaseline to the knees was in order to avoid any chaffing. As the kilties lined up there were various rumours that we had the numbers required, while others insisted we were 60 short of the record. There were all shapes and sizes at the line-up. Some of the group from ‘British Military Fitness’ (BMF) seemed to be taking themselves a bit seriously while the lads from the Royal Regiment of Scotland/Royal Marines seemed quite chilled. Different motivations I suppose.
Alexia and I were not sure whether to run this together or to run our own races. In the end we opted for the latter. We lined up on a sunny, but windy and quite chilly start line and took off in a chaotic funnelled start. It seemed to take an age to get any kind of space to stretch the legs (and a bit longer for the old lungs to settle down – a couple blasts of the inhaler required before the end of mile one).
The route itself was simply round the North and South Inches, with a final – and to some soul-destroying – last lap of the North Inch passing within feet of the finish line with still a mile to go. The guy I was running with seemed at first elated to see the end and then, upon realising another mile lap was ahead of him, just seemed to drop away. I had made my goal of the day to catch as many of the BMF runners as I could and thought I’d bagged the lot until I crossed the line to see one of their instructors comfortably settled in taking photos of his team as they crossed the line; clearly out of my league then. The fastest male (Nelson Hall) came in at 24 mins 55 sec, the first female (Jane Hansom) crossed the line at 31:56.
I eventually got in with a time of 37:43 (placing 101/1019 finishers). I am quite happy with that result and the kilt did not seem to hinder too much at all (used to it from Ceilidhs I suppose).
Alexia finished in a very presentable 51 mins, only 20 seconds behind my PhD student Laura Hedrick. I think in Alexia’s case the heavy weight man’s kilt she had borrowed certainly slowed her down (as had the 8 mile training run we’d done the night before). It transpires that, although by number of runners registered we should have beaten the record, we were 16 short of finishers, so the record stays in Canada for the moment. But this was a fun race and they will undoubtedly achieve their goal in the future. But for me the day was just starting.
After a superman like change we headed to Dundee where I boarded the train to head to Edinburgh for a Stag Night (indeed, a double Stag Night). But on arrival my first stop had to be Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh where a mate of mine, Martin Hookway from RelayGB, had taken on a challenge to run round and round the rock for 12 hours along with Stuart Doyle, Andrew Milne and Chris Strother. I waited for about half an hour at the Holyrood car park and eventually saw four weary figures running down the hill. I ran with them for a while to pay my respects to this fabulous effort. Four weeks ago, Martin had never been above a half mara. Since then he has taken on his first full mara (for RelayGB). In the end these guys ran 48 miles on hard tarmac paths and finished with a ‘sprint’ (?) to the top of the hill. I am both confused at their challenge and impressed by their achievement. Inspiring stuff. But though fun to watch for a bit, this was not my purpose in Edinburgh.
Now obviously what goes on on Stag Nights, stays on Stag Nights. But there was one feature of this one worth mentioning as it did impact on my race the following day. The lads had spent part one of said double-Stag at the Musselburgh Races. A rather famous individual (who must remain nameless) doubles as a horse pundit in his spare time. He had fed the lads some tips in the morning resulting in a total score. They cleaned up £1600 at the races thus providing the kitty for the rest of the night. You’ll see where this is going. As a late-comer to the event there was a slight element of catch-up involved. A massive Indian meal later (inc Champagne/beer etc) and we were out on the town. The Jager-bombs started arriving in numbers along with some fine malt whisky. Enough said.
I remember lying on the beach at St Andrews the next morning having managed to get home sometime in the wee hours (a feat which impressed Alexia who thought I’d not make it out of Edinburgh). It was just after 09.30 – why Alexia, why did we have to register so early? Legs were stiff from the run the day before, stomach was not right at all: let’s call it ‘Dheli-Belly’ for shorthand. Head was a bit saggy and collectively the thought of a three-mile beach sprint did not seem all that appealing.
The Chariots of Fire 5k beach run is a tribute to the scene in the film of the same name which was filmed on St Andrews West Sands. It also does good work raining money for the Sue Ryder charity. As per last year the junior races seemed to take forever and the stiff sea breeze chilled us all down as we waited to start. Then came the famous soundtrack by Vangelis over the sound system and the race was away. Apart from the usual breathlessness in the first mile (made worse by the strong cold wind), I was surprised at how well the legs were working and pushed up the beach to the turn at 1.5miles. Got good encouragement from Alexia as we passed each other and eventually I came in at 22 mins 24 – much, much faster than last year’s event, and even quicker on soft sand today than on tarmac yesterday (discuss pre-event fuelling and prep strategies amongst yourselves).
As with yesterday, Alexia and Laura came in within seconds of each other, and our fourth, Helen, completed her first ever race. So it was up to the prize-giving for the ice cream, and quite a few Corona (there is always a generous supply after this race). Two short races and a Stag Night (but not in that order!) combined to provide a very satisfying weekend.