When I moved up to Scotland in December 2015, I stayed for a few months in the Kingdom of Fife. While me and wifey were sorting out a place to live in Edinburgh, I had a few months of commuting from the Kingdom into the city. Commuting quite a way doesn’t leave much time or energy for much else, so I had to squeak a few runs in where I could. Kirkcaldy parkrun is one of the few on the list that I have done before, so I knew I was in for a treat.
Earlier this week, I got into a slightly jovial exchange on twitter regarding carb-loading. Apparently most people get this wrong and have a massive blow out the evening before, but what they should be doing is little and often during the days leading up to the event. Though I’m going to indignantly refuse to give up large quantities of spaghetti anytime soon, the thing I can take from this is that I should now be having spaghetti all day long, as well as a big bowl in the evening. Though we didn’t all agree on the awesomeness of carbs, we did all agree that cake is brilliant. When I got wind that Kirkcaldy were celebrating a birthday, and that cake was involved I found that I had an offer that no sane person could ignore.
By way of impromptu race preparation, myself and wifey decided on a few tipples and a little Turkish meze restaurant just round the corner. We opted for the meze banquet, which essentially meant not having to make many decisions in order for wave after wave of delicious food to be brought to our table. One of the only issues we had was that with the provision of warm bread and many things to dip it in, there’s always one more tempting morsel to continue stuffing into your face. Both of us were so full that we had trouble sleeping, but if I have learnt anything over my years, it’s definitely not how to restrain myself when presented with lots of food. If presented with the same feast again right now, I would definitely do it again.
My stomach however was not of the same view, being the selfish sort, and certainly made its discontent known as I was getting myself ready. On the upside though, it did mean I didn’t need to eat a lot of breakfast, which saved maybe a few minutes. Those few minutes were soon put to good use in Waverley station M&S; I had no intention of turning up empty handed after all.
From my brief spell as a commuter, the train ride from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy is one I have done dozens of times. Even on a drab day, when I was tired from the long days of work, plus 2 times an hour and forty minute commute, I don’t think I ever once was miserable about that train journey. Before this, my only experience of a work commute was the London underground. Here, I had a view over the Forth to enjoy and even more incredibly, a seat!
Arriving into Kirkcaldy, the sky was not looking all that promising, and I was doing my level best to pretend the moisture in the air wasn’t there. As I entered Beveridge Park, I got chatting to a guy from Birmingham who now lives up in Kirkcaldy. He wasn’t running today, but had come along to spectate. We found some more regulars who directed me over to the rugby club to drop off M&S’s finest in with the rapidly growing cake mountain I found there. Bag dropped off, I went for a recce lap of the park to warm up. Thankfully at this point I found that it was no longer necessary to pretend moisture wasn’t coming from the sky.
Into the melee, I bumped into one of my Portobello RC club mates. I had no idea he was coming along, and it was brilliant to see a familiar face. As the briefing was going on, I had a few glances around. Maybe it’s just because it was the birthday, but it definitely felt to me like there were a lot more people for this event than the last time I did Kirkcaldy. It also has to be said that we runners are a funny looking bunch.
Seconds out and we’re charging off up the park. The path is nice and wide, so we’re quickly spread out and my only concern is not going off too hard. We round the corner, wave to the marshals and onwards up the park. The chain gang is thinning out as the path narrows, then we turn a corner which reveals Beveridge Park’s not so little secret. It’s quite a thing to see a hill that you are about to climb side-on, and as we snake round the path we’re going up. I’m focusing on keeping my stride short and grinding my way up, trying and failing to keep my effort constant, and as quickly as it came into view the climb flattens out to a much shallower gradient. In the distance, I see the Forth coming back into view, but I’ve no time to take much in as we begin the slalom ride down the other side. I catch myself taking the racing line round the bends, and wonder what my life has become when a dog puts paid to that and I shimmy round hoping no one has noticed. Mile #1 is done in 7.14.
The downhill continues all the way down the back straight past the waiting finish line, and we get some great encouragement from the volunteers. I’m asked if I would mind leaving some cake for the runners behind us, and though I’m not sure how the locals have gotten wind of last night’s efforts, having seen the cake mountain waiting for us I have no doubt there won’t be any problem.
Round the corner on past where we started, and we have a small dip down then back up. This proves a bit more of a shock to my legs who were really quite enjoying a nice easy section and I realise that I’m going to have to work quite hard. As we pass the gate for the second time, we have a bonus section on lap two to complete which takes us around the boating lake. After my corner flattening antics earlier, I resolve to take the shimmies in this section a bit more thoroughly, and as we come off the lake into what feels a bit more like the wilds I’m starting to feel myself going into the red. Mile #2 completed in 6.56, which means now I have no choice but push hard to get the job done. Just the matter of a small bump to get done first.
As we exit the bonus section, we’re greeted by runners coming into this section on the other side of the path. I give a few good cheers out to my fellow runners and plough on. Sadly none of this is enough to distract me away from the looming col du Beveridge Park which will very soon appear from round the corner. With tired legs, the camber in the path becomes more difficult and I move to the centre of the path. My wheezing is becoming higher pitched and more desperate sounding as I climb, and in the distance I see a strip of gold opening up in the grey skies over the Forth. I wonder to myself if that was what the designers of strip lights had in mind yet spectacularly failed to achieve. ‘That’s it, nearly done now’ I’m reliably informed, and it is – we now just have the slalom downhill to negotiate, then a long shallow downhill to the finish. Mile #3 checks off in 7.23 and I veer off into the finish funnel which looks a little like a pit lane.
Into the Rugby club afterwards, the spread put out is an absolute joy to behold. There are cakes of every description that matter, and all (except for the ones I brought) look to be home made. I spend some time chatting with my club mate and some new friends, and am about to put my leggings back on when I realise that the awards are about to start, and I’m standing right behind the guy giving out the awards. The awards bring it home to me just how amazing a thing parkrun is. parkrun isn’t just a timed run, this is something that builds communities and really matters to people. There is an award for most volunteering this year, and the winner has done an incredible 35 events. I feel a twinge of guilt at this, and resolve that once I’m done with this challenge I will spend the rest of the year on the other side of the finishers’ funnel.
On my way back home, I’m not only buzzing from another great parkrun, but hugely inspired by the brilliant team that run this event.
Scores: 25th place, 21:52, millionaires’ shortbread and an excellent piece of plain shortbread.