Back before I actually started this thing proper, I had thought that by leaving things very last minute I was being a bit clever. It would mean, I thought, that I would be able to pick and choose based on the weather. Sadly, Scotland has had other ideas, and as I furiously checked through a multitude of locations this week, I saw shades of the exact same forecast in every location. That forecast being overcast, with varying degrees of wet.
Into the mix this week, I definitely wanted to stay slightly closer to home. One of the unexpected difficulties of this challenge so far, has been that after a long busy week at work with all my usual commitments on top – a long busy Saturday as well has meant that bugs I might normally fend off have managed to set up a base camp in my throat and started to perform drills. I’ll not deny though that part of me saw a train at 8.40, and thought of this as a bit of a cop out, but I really felt like I needed a slightly easier week.
Waking up a little bit before my Saturday parkrun alarm was a bit novel. As I had breakfast, I noticed that it was getting light outside. I checked the forecast for Livingston and found that the deal we had struck last night was a bit like the interest rate on my ISA, rapidly going downhill.
Going to the bus stop, there were other people around, and not just those who are clearly having to go to work. It was almost like it was day time or something, the whole thing was a bit unsettling. Where’s the sense of adventure if everyone else is just up and around as well?
Since the train ride today was only 20 minutes, I would scarcely have any time to read. I’ve now finally finished The Kraken Wakes, which sadly was a bit disappointing at the end. If you’re reading it, then I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say, it’s not his best. I’d recommend Day of the Triffids though. I got myself ready to jog from the station, then went to the loo. As I stood there, the train suddenly lurched round a corner, and I went head first into the wall. Now slightly dazed, I went back to my seat to find that the rain was starting outside in earnest.
Arriving at Livingston, the first challenge I had was figuring out how to exit the station. It looked a little bit like the queuing system at Alton Towers does. I’ve no doubt that this is fantastic for allowing access to the station for all, but in my confused state I was not quite ready to take on anything more challenging than running the 1.7 mile straight line route to the start. As it was, even that proved to be a bit too challenging. I had looked as I usually do at streetview the evening before, and had planned to run along the main road. Oddly enough, when planning it I had made the exact same mistake. Coming up to a roundabout, I noticed that the destinations weren’t what I had been expecting. A quick look at my phone confirmed that I had run about half a mile in exactly the wrong direction. It was now 9.13, and I now had around 2 miles to cover. The rain had stopped though.
As I made my way to the start line, I had visions of me just going straight onto the course in my coat and rucksack. I thought about scenarios of missing the start, and just running anyway and ending up with a time in the high 20s. I refused to look at my watch and just ploughed on hoping that this would somehow stop time from advancing. Now on the correct road, I remark that the road I’m running up looks almost exactly the same as the one I ran up in the wrong direction. To the sides of this road I can see tantalising little paths heading off in other directions which look like they would be great fun investigating. I wonder that if I’d done some more thorough research, there might well have been a really lovely route I could have taken, but then apparently I can barely cope with a straight line.
Turning into the park at 9.27, I could see the briefing just finishing and could hear the words ‘if you could make your way to the start line’… perfect timing… I had just enough time to get my coat etc off and into my bag and to make my way to the back of the scrum. Still a bit bewildered from the rush down, I’m staying at the back of the field rather than push my way forward. I barely have time to catch my breath before we’re off.
The path is really narrow, and with the number of runners I’m off onto the grass. It had rained heavily the night before, and the result is like running on sponge cake. I’m sure this is in no way indicative of what’s to come. I manage to get myself back onto solid ground, and I’m bunched in as we go round a corner and run along the river. A few more enthusiastic types are taking on the mulch to advance a few places. I’m personally quite content to just stay at this pace for now, and see how I feel when things spread out later. We go round a hair pin bend which is up a short incline, then down a short section back past where we started. This time instead of turning left at the river, we turn right and onto the trail section of the course. After the rain last night, it appears that the trail has retreated, and is now hidden under a layer of mud.
My personal preference for dealing with mud and puddles, is just go straight through the middle. I find that all the dodging and weaving is a bit of a waste of energy, and will eat into your pace. I also like just gleefully running through the puddles. The path winds around like a gnarly old tree, we’re up a short and moderately steep climb and that’s the first mile done in 8.25.
The path is now veering around like a drunken octopus, and as we descend down to go under the main road bridge I lose my footing and very nearly go over. I manage to save it, have a little chuckle to myself and on we splash on through the woods. As we come into a clearing the path is still narrow, but is now starting to stretch out and I have more space around me and I’m able to find a more comfortable rhythm. I’ve not seen anyone coming back down the path, so I guess that we must be coming back on the other side of the river. The other side of the river seems to be much higher up than we are.
Right on cue, we make a sharp left turn over a bridge and we’re going uphill. The gradient is fairly shallow, making the climb nice and manageable. We’re still splashing away, and the view down to the river on my left is great. I could swear the sun is trying to come out as well. It’s not succeeding, but it’s having a bash at least. I’m feeling better as the run goes on, and I’m moving past a few people as I get into my stride. Mile two ticks in at 7.56.
We’re now heading down the other side of the hill, again at a really manageable gradient, meaning I can just open up my stride and enjoy the run. We’re back under the main road bridge before I know it and heading for home. As we come back into the park we started in, we take a right which sends us onto the small loop we completed at the start of the course. On my right is a young lad who’s clearly working hard. On the side of the course are his family who hand him a drink, which he takes a bit of then throws it aside to concentrate on the final push. I push ahead of him slightly, and he digs in and pushes back past me. I wish sometimes I had that sort of competitive nature, not to mention the roadside support team. The final mile beeps in a 7.38, and we’ve just a short downhill into the finish. I’m grateful that the organisers have put a small foot bath (puddle) after the finish line for me to clean my shoes off.
Scores! 24:20, 58th place.