#8: Elgin

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve missed a week. This was by no means intentional. One of the unexpected problems I’ve come across (and I think I had a bit of a moan about this in an earlier post) was that I’ve found myself getting ill more often. Not long after my last outing, I came down with the third sniffle of the year. As this was my third one, I got some special bonus features unlocked as well. As it was, I think I managed to handle it in a fairly manly fashion, by which I mean I whinged about it constantly to my wife, and tried for as much sympathy as possible at work.

A few weeks previous, I had a rallying call from my club (Portobello RC) that we were scrambling for the cross country Nationals at Falkirk. I love a bit of XC, and was really keen to get involved. I also knew that Falkirk had a parkrun, in the exact same park. Stars aligned, it was too good to be true. The only snag was that as I was returning from injury, and still not back to the training schedule I’d gotten to at the end of last year – the thought of doing parkrun, followed by 10k of XC was something that not even I was daft enough to sign myself up for. Though obviously I was fairly tempted. In the end, I opted to marshal the XC and chalk up another parkrun.

Wednesday’s training session came and went, and I sat snuffling and grumping at home hoping that by the weekend I would at least be able to limp round. As the weekend got closer, the chances of heavy rain at Falkirk increased, and my chances of running looked less and less likely. In the end, after a great deal of frowning, I conceded that running in the heavy rain, then standing around all day marshalling and potentially getting cold would be very silly indeed. I did though have a brilliant time at the Nationals in the end, even if I didn’t get to run. I do love hurling ‘encouragement’ at people, and one of my club mates brought a tent complete with camping stove and tea.

It was the following Wednesday before I ran again, and though the session was fairly tough after ten days out, I made it round. hurrah!

Whilst up in Inverness a few weeks ago, I had a great chat with one of the organisers who tipped me off that Elgin would soon be coming up for their first anniversary. A bit of research, and I had a date. Elgin though is quite a long way from where I live. It’s not the most inaccessible of the Scottish parkruns, being near a train station, but even if you live in Inverness, the earliest train on a Saturday will not get you there on time. In the spirit of the other parkruns I’ve done this year, and nothing at all to do with being a bit disorganised, I finally committed myself to train tickets and a lovely sounding B&B on Wednesday.

It had not really occurred to me whilst booking any of those things to check the weather. After all, it was a birthday run, there would be cake, and it’s not like a big black cloud with both of the rain drops would have changed my mind anyway. I did though think that the rain might change its mind. As we made our way up on the Friday, the sun streamed through the train windows. The Cairngorms looked incredible, snow gleaming as we made our way north. I kept checking the forecast, which still doggedly stuck to its grim predictions, even though it looked increasingly impossible from outside the window. As me and wifey arrived into Elgin, sky a crystal blue with not a single blemish to be seen, we did what any sensible folk might do; we went to a pub with quite small windows and conducted some research on local beverages.

Down to breakfast at a very leisurely 8am, I was being fairly restrained with a bowl of porridge followed by some tottie scone and mushrooms. I figured that would be fairly OK to run on. Wifey on the other hand is not one to let a black pudding opportunity go begging. We had a great chat with our B&B host L, who said that her friend was often to be seen at parkrun, and though she had recently had an accident which left her in a cast and with a crutch, she had been hoping to make it down for the birthday celebrations.

It’s amazing how much weather can change whilst your back is turned. Peering out of the window, we saw a pretty different picture to the one we’d arrived to. It’s not like we weren’t warned though, so rain jackets on we headed out the door. Arriving at the start line, the rain wasn’t too heavy, and I went over to the tent to drop my bag in. I was quickly identified as that chap from Edinburgh by the run director who it turned out I’d been chatting to on Twitter. I was then talking to another one of the organisers who gave me some great tip offs about possible new parkruns coming up. As I went off to get myself to the start line, a lady with a crutch asked me if I was staying at her friend L’s B&B… Elgin was going to be a fun day out.

Off we go, down the wide path and round a sharp right hander. I’ve heard that this is a flat course, and even if I’ve missed a lot of training and am coming back from a cold I’m feeling a bit over confident. Round another sharp right hander and we’re onto a narrow path going across the park. I’m pulling a guy back in headphones and going past him, still feeling good, though starting to worry about my hands and the fingers that I can’t feel. Round a right hander and I see the marshals are holding up some slogans, though it’s too late and I don’t see what they are. We’re heading back on ourselves and splashing through some puddles – weeeee! Round a sharp left turn and we slalom down under a bridge. My fingers are starting to throb and I’m flexing them to make sure they’re still functional. More worrying though is that I’ve taken myself up into the red already. Oh dear. Emerging from under the short bridge, a very short climb and we’re onto a long snaking path that sits on top of a golden coloured field. If I’d not noticed the football pitch to my left, I’d have wondered why those agricultural looking buildings were equipped with floodlights. Wheeze wheeze wheeze, here come the fast boys heading back the way and mile #1 is done in a far too enthusiastic 6.53.

We spin ourselves round and head back up that snaking path back toward the park. I’d love to be calling out encouragement to those coming toward me, but the only sounds I’m currently making are like a vacuum cleaner with an intermittent blockage, though I can’t imagine that Henry would so full of self pity. I manage to squeak out a call to my wife who is looking really strong, and is probably running a far more sensible race than I am. Too late now, and I plough on reaching the bridge again and back into the park. I see my B&B landlady’s friend again who gives me a cheer and we’re going up the narrow path in the park. I’m now obsessing about what I’ve got left to do, and still hoping my hands thaw out soon. Past the marshals with the signs, and I see that I can get a power up if I high five a marshal, unfortunately by this point I am past the marshal and the opportunity has gone. Mile #2 is done in 7.08.

All I’ve now got to do is get past the cow sheds, up to the end and back again. It seems an incredibly long way though at this point, and I’m basically clinging on for grim death. I see the nice smiley marshal as I go under the bridge, and hang on a second – I can feel my hands coming back to life! Things are looking up at least, and as I turn the corner for the last time, it seems that the wind has decided it’s now time for him to get involved as well. As I snaked my way back along the path, I felt certain that my pace was gone. As I came to the bridge for the last time mile #3 buzzed at 7.08, I couldn’t believe it. I whimpered my way under the bridge and headed for home. Now run ragged, I was running for reasons I can’t quite fathom mostly with my eyes closed. I’ve no idea how I thought this might ease my suffering, but at the time it seemed like it was worth a try. Thankfully I managed to keep them open for long enough to get myself across the finish line.

I quickly grabbed a few layers and got a coat on. The rain was now getting a bit heavier, and I live by the motto of layering up before you feel cold. Wifey arrived safe and well, and was really happy to report she’d run a negative split. After we’d cheered in as many runners as we could see, it was all back to the cafe for tea, cakes and some awards. Once again with parkrun, we found ourselves pulled into a family. On the coldest of grey days, we were in the warmest of company. Happy Birthday guys, and here’s to many more happy years!

Scores: 22.10, 16th place.

Next week I’ll be running Vogrie parkrun for its first official event. Can’t wait!



One thought on “#8: Elgin

  1. I’m a big fan of the eyes closed trick too when the going gets tough Ollie haha!! Some speed this week, hope you are feeling better now. I cant believe you can eat so close to racing… I’d get a stitch for sure. See you at Vogrie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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