I was ‘lucky’ to receive a late place for the Strathaven ‘Run With the Wind’ Half Marathon. Although I raced my 15th Half a couple of years ago, I had planned in running my 16th at Alloa in a few weeks time. I’ve been increasing my long runs and can comfortably run 13.1miles these days. However when I checked the weather forecast on Saturday morning it was predicting gale force winds and snow, not goodI Another check last thing on Saturday was predicting light rain, a lot better for running in.
I made my way to the historic, South Lanarkshire, Market town on the River Avon and met up with a number of friends amongst the 212 runners, including Ayrshire lass Sylvia Mulholand. Registration was at one of the local primary schools and the paths and roads approaching the school were icy. Whilst I was warming up, the heavy snow came on and the mood in the school hall worsened.
The friendly marshals handed out black bin liners and then led us over a kilometre up the icy road, to the race Start. With little ado, we were set on our way at 9:58am. I had studied the race route, which indicated that it was undulating, uphill for the first six mies, flattish for a couple of miles and and then downhill for the last five. My race tactics were simple, get to the 8 mile mark and then see how I felt. The freezing sleet and crosswind were making running difficult as we made our way upwards, towards Whitelee, the largest on-shore wind farm in the United Kingdom with 215 wind turbines. I had noticed that local ultra runner Rosie Bell, with ‘Star Inn’ written on the back of her Striders’ vest, was ahead of me and, presuming that she knew the course and would have a decent run, I decided to use her to pull me round the course. The occassional warning cries of “ice” and “car” just added to the shared experience as I made my way up through the field. The undulating route meant that my pace was varying from 8:03-7:33 min/miles but it was having its toll on the other runners too and I was only a couple of places behind Rosie when I stopped at the drink station for an ice cold cup of water and, more importantly, to get my breath back. Although I lost three places, I soon recaptured them and more as I took advantage of the downhill section to clock up a 7:02 min/mile. At this point I noticed just how stunning the scenery was. It would be a gorgeous training run or cycle in the right weather. There was still another hill to climb before I made it to the 8 mile point and I stuck to my task. Mile 7 had taken me 7:33.
My joy of reaching the turning point was short lived though, as we found ourselves running directly into the, energy sapping, gale force wind! The ninth mile took me 8:41 and another hill slowed my tenth mile to 9:07. I was shattered and frozen, not just my hands but both arms. They were like blocks of ice. I was overtaken by around 7 runners and it was taking all my mental and physical strength to keep running, however slowly, especially when a couple of others resorted to walking. I knew that the downhill part would come at some point and Rosie, although a good bit in front of me, was still in sight. I struggled on and as the town came into sight, I was able to increase my pace and started overtaking runners again. The 11th mile took 7:59 and the 12th 7:33. I was giving it my all as I ran into the town and turned left towards the park. I stumbled and nearly fell as I climbed up the grass mount to the home strait. I had run the 13th mile in 7:21 but it had taken its toll and, as I crossed the Finish Line, I collapsed with exhaustion and possibly hypothermia too. Thankfully the medical team were on hand to look after me and then escort me down to the school hall for a warm welcome from friends, hot soup and sandwiches too.
Well done to everyone associated with the event for braving the weather and congratulations to Mark Patterson and Julie Beveridge for winning the men’s and women’s races respectively. I was very happy to have finished in 52nd place and second V55 in a time of 1:42:31. Post race photo of me coming out of the medical tent, looking a wee bit peely-wally.
Full Results here Other pics by Sandra Hunter, Zander Beggs and Ally Robb