Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to run in the inaugural Roon the Toon 10k race in Kilmarnock but I didn’t miss the opportunity this year. I wanted the opportunity to run through the streets of Kilmarnock, a town that I used to know so well, having attended the local academy and turned out for the local rugby and running clubs. I’ve got a lot of fond memories of the place and I had targeted the event as my first 10k of the year. My bicycle accident, and resulting broken collarbone had scuppered my training schedule and I had amended my target time accordingly. The event’s website had stated that it was a ‘fast and flat course’ so I reckoned that, despite my lack of mileage, I should aim to get ‘roon the toon’ in under 45 minutes. An extra incentive was that this would be my first race as a male 60 veteran (VM60). During the pre-race catch-ups, a running buddy pointed out that I should have a chance of winning the category. No pressure then!
After my warm up, I lined up at the front of the 40-45min pen. I exchanged good luck messages with those around me and we were set on our way at 10 am. It was a warm and windy Sunday morning as we headed out of the super East Ayrshire Athletics Arena and headed along Queen’s Drive, through Bellfield towards the southern end of the town centre.
I was surrounded by running buddies, stupidly ignoring the fact that I had been injured and should be taking it canny. I completed the first kilometre in 4:04, this was way too fast for my level of fitness and I wiselyI took my foot off the throttle a bit.
We turned a sharp right and were met with loud cries of support from locals congregating behind the barrier on the pedestrian precinct; I heard a few cries for ‘Ian’ but most were for local runner Laura Haggarty. My first mile was done in 6:44, which was way too fast. A sharp left took us along St Marnock Street and then another took us alongside Howard Park towards the home of the famous Kilmarnock FC. We took a left fork, down Holmes Road towards the Ayrshire countryside. The second mile had taken me 7:00 minutes, which was still ahead of my target. We ran under the A71 Hurlford Road and turned right for the first of three unexpected hills. I ran the third mile in 7:07. I reached the halfway point with a time of 21:37, my fastest 5k in 7 months and my schoolboy error was starting to take its toll. I was starting to struggle, my throat was dry, I was hot and tired and my right shoulder was hurting me.
My aim was now just to keep on running until I reached the 6k point and the promised water station. I ran 6k but the water station was still a fair bit further along Dundonald Road than I had hoped, so it was even more of a relief when I eventually reached it. I pulled over and took a few long deep breaths, filling up my lungs with oxygen. I then took a drink of water and poured the remainder of the bottle over my head. ‘Are you alright’ asked the first aider, ‘aye fine’ I lied before rejoining the other 1200 or so runners. I had hoped that I would now start running with a spring in my step but it was not to be. I could feel my leg muscles going on strike at being asked to run further and faster than they have for more than half a year. I saw Dumfries’s Les Hill running past me and was surprised that he had been behind me in the first place. He had obviously timed his run better than me, and my fourth mile took 7:20. John Finnie Street came into sight and I knew that there was still one more hill to climb. Just before the railway station, we turned right and ran downhill past the Fanny by Gaslight public house and where the old Western SMT bus station used to be. Another right turn and we hit the hard cobbles of Burn’s Mall pedestrian precinct, where a number of Stewarton residents gave me some much-needed support. We continued along King Street to the 8k marker, my 5th mile had been my slowest and had taken me 7:23 but I reckoned that I still in with a chance of getting my sub 45 min target time.
Unfortunately, when we turned left to retrace our footsteps back to the Arena we were met with a strong head wind. I was now having to work really hard just to keep my pace but I convinced myself that I had an outside chance of being 1st MV60. I spotted a mature runner ahead of me and thought that he might be in my age category. I dug deep and managed to catch up with him but I just didn’t have the energy
or speed to pass him. We reached the 600m sign and I knew that it was now or never. I overtook him and gave it my all. It wasn’t enough to open a gap though and I squeezed every last drop of determination to keep in front of him as we entered the Arena and ran around the track. I saw the clock above the finish line counting up and sprinted as fast as I could to cross the line as it reached 44:30.
Despite being shattered, I had managed to run the sixth mile in 7:11. I had done what I had set out to do, not very well admittedly, but I had run under my 45minute target by some 30 seconds and was happy enough with that. Of course, the ‘mature runner’ turned out to be in a younger age cat than me but I wasn’t prepared to take that risk.
After I had got my breath back I collected my medal and goody bag before changing into dry clothes. I was chatting with other finishers when I realised that I hadn’t collected a print out of my race result. I joined the queue and was relieved to see that my time had been recorded as 44:30 but a bit surprised to see that I was down in the MV50 category. I made my way to the prize giving area, where Irvine’s John Surgenor, who thought that he had won was talking with the officials. It was clear that my time was a minute faster than John’s and that there had been a mix-up. A few minutes later I was on the podium receiving my bouquet of flowers and an envelope containing my prize money. Apparently the race time-keepers StuWeb had forgotten to update their software programme from last year, so the 2016 date had been used to assign the various age categories. The organisers have since given John a free entry for the 2018 event.
This was the first time I’ve actually stood on a podium and received a prize for running, only time will tell if it will be my last.
Well done to all involved in the great event, the organisers, my fellow runners and all the supporters and photographers. It was great to see so many old friends, some that I hadn’t seen since I was at school and that was 43 years ago.
There was a much stronger field than last year, with some class athletes in both the men’s and women’s events. Cambuslang’s Stuart Gibson crossed the line first, with a winning time of 31:41, with far travelled Kenny Wilson (Moray Road Runners) some 13 seconds behind earning silver and Cambuslang’s Robert Gilroy placing third with 32:33.
Shettleston’s Fionnuala Ross won gold in the women’s race with an excellent time of 34:59, with Inverness star Jenny Bannerman securing the second spot in 36:59 and local lass, Avril Mason (also representing Shettleston Harriers) placed third in 37:18.