#16: Hazlehead

When I got fitted for the suit I would eventually get married in, I was advised that I should take the jacket length longer since I had a ‘prominent seat’. For those not up on tailor lingo, this means I have a fat arse. Fast forward a few years, and in recent physio sessions, I have been set some exercises to engage my glute muscles, since currently my quads are doing a lot of the work that the glutes should be. It seems then that the reason my arse is quite fat is because it’s also rather lazy.

Having actually done the exercises the physio set me, and not just gone to Pilates and hoped that would suffice, it’s been quite an odd sensation running recently and being able to actually feel different muscles working. I’ve definitely had a few days of achy muscles that demonstrate that my bottom is finally, though begrudgingly, starting to play for the team.

A few months ago when some kind souls from Portobello RC shared this blog to the club Facebook page, I had an old club mate pop up saying he was in Aberdeen, and were I to be heading north I should give him a shout. Now many people say these sort of things, but when I actually called his bluff I was very pleased to see that he was still up for meeting up. As the day got closer, we made plans for where he would pick me up and the time, which was at such a late hour in the morning that even now I’m struggling to comprehend it.

Though I’ve done a great deal of parkruns now, a lot of them on my own, this was going to be the first one where I would spend the night away without wifey. I don’t think I was conscious of this being the reason I felt a bit odd toward the end of the week, except as the week went on I was more and more following her around like a lost puppy. I had booked a fairly late train on Friday night, so we had a bit of dinner together before I went and got the train and wifey went to a show. I’d be back before we both knew it.

Onto the train, no reservations honoured, but fairly calm all about I found a seat and got myself comfortable. I had been fairly confident that catching the later train I would avoid the rush of commuters, and any people out for a party would be coming in to Edinburgh rather than going out. The plan was going brilliantly until about 3 minutes before departure when the train was boarded by more than a dozen middle aged drunken men who managed to quickly turn the atmosphere on the train to that of a dodgy boozer.

I got my book out (currently, ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ by Mariana Enríquez) and managed for the most part to lose myself in the macabre tales. At around 9pm there was an announcement over the carriage that alcohol was no longer permitted on the train. This was greeted by the sound of fresh cans being opened, and I was glad to see not actually enforced by any staff members since by this point few words except ‘f**kin’ were left. We passed Stonehaven meaning not much further to go, and I started to arrange my things. As I came back from the toilet, I saw a fairly respectable looking person answer their phone, and in doing so reveal that they were utterly smashed as well. Glancing around I started to see the empties everywhere, it was like I’d slipped into some drunken dimension while I wasn’t looking.

Things didn’t get much better as I arrived in Aberdeen town centre. I quickly made my way up the street, and thankfully into the safe, quiet and sober arms of the hotel without further incident. A quick call to wifey, arranged my things for the morning and off to bed. Just for a laugh as well, I set an alarm for 7.30am.

I woke up at 7.20am, peeked out of the curtains and saw an uninterrupted blue sky behind the massive hulking church over the street. I started to wonder if today might have been a good day after all to try Aberdeen parkrun, but a quick look at the trees rattling around settled my mind. My alarm went off, and I got up and made some tea. These days hotels seem to default to charging you for breakfast, and since once I’ve ponied up the ransom I tend to try and get my money’s worth I had felt this might not work well with running a 5k. I had instead brought with me a few provisions for a light breakfast (mixed nuts, banana, Nakd bar) which did the trick nicely.

My old club mate thankfully turned up at the agreed meeting point, and we were soon on our way up the road toward Hazlehead park. He was apologetic about the state of his car which he explained he spent a lot of time in due to his work. It wasn’t honestly that bad, but it’s the first time I’ve seen a box of tea in a passenger side door.

We were the first people to arrive in the park for the run, and as such decided to have a quick walk up the path the run takes. I basically couldn’t believe my luck, the sun was shining through the trees, animating the gravel track with shadows as we walked. As we got back to the start, we found that we were no longer the only parkrunners in Hazlehead.

Off we go, charging up the path and quickly round a sharp right hand bend. We’re off the tarmac and onto gravel which is pretty smooth, enveloped by trees and heading up hill, quickly spreading out and I’m into a nice amount of space really quickly. The sun is flashing through the trees making the path appear golden as we swing left and continue climbing. The path flung us round to the right and the gradient briefly inched up a notch as tree cover above us fell away and revealed a white dusty path stretching ahead. Arching slowly to the left, I knew I was already in trouble. I felt like my cadence was slowing and slowing, my stride getting shorter and I was going nowhere, yet I was already well into the red. The path snaked round, back into the woods and the first mile buzzed in at #7.28.

It’s at this precise moment that my run started to unravel. At the time looking at these numbers, and knowing the effort it had taken me to achieve them, my mind just fell to bits. I gave myself absolutely no credit for the whole of that mile being up hill, and just reasoned that today it just wasn’t in the tank. The reality though was that I had gone off far too hard, and was now suffering as a result but actually had run a pretty good first mile given the course.

Onward through the woods, the golf course appearing on the left of us, I tried to remain focused but was now already thinking about the finish line. This is never, ever a good thing. We rounded a corner to the left and out again into the open. At this point it started to feel like we were in Spain, with the pale track beneath us, blue sky above and sun bearing down on us. I could now see the lead runners coming back toward us and the turn, and as we approached my legs were going to jelly and each lump in the ground was  causing me to falter and adjust to catch my balance. I knew as we rounded the turn to begin the return leg that the course would be all downhill to the finish, but even with this I felt a long way from home and at this point I relented and took my foot off the gas. From here on out it was a tempo session and I would do my best to at least enjoy the gorgeous surroundings. Back into the trees and mile #2 was over in 7.09.

Out of the trees again and along a stretch I now noticed flowering yellow gorse on either side. Runners were coming past me as I eased myself through the last section, and we entered the trees again I knew we were getting closer to the finish. We took a sharp left hander which I mistook for the fork into the final stretch, however after a we came to another right turn still in the trees I realised I’d gotten muddled and that section was still to come. More runners came past me as we then did reach the fork for the finish, and I now started to see the green beyond the trees of the park where the finish line was. As I rounded the final bend, I saw my club mate cheering me on and attempted to look less beaten than I really was as I crossed the line.

The course here at Hazlehead is absolutely beautiful. I know that my report above seems like I had a bit of a bad time, but in honesty this is because I completely misjudged the course, went too hard early then paid a heavy price for it. Or maybe it’s just my lazy fat arse weighing me down. I think I would have benefitted from a longer warmup than I actually did, and for those considering running it in the future I would definitely advise taking the first mile fairly cautiously; you’ll definitely make the time up later in the course.

Scores! 31st place, 22.05

Next week: Stonehaven

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