20? Twenty? Really? Already?! Blimey.
Hello lovely people, and thanks to those of you who haven’t gotten bored / annoyed with my barely intelligible ramblings thus far. For those of you that have and are just stubbornly sticking it out to find out how this sorry tale will end, well done. As in keeping with this blog so far, the whole premise of this challenge started out very much as a running thing. It very quickly though diverted into a more touristy sort of thing, which happened to feature a bit of running. I’ve absolutely loved seeing all sorts of places that I might not have otherwise visited, and having a ready made group of fast friends wherever I end up makes that even better.
From when I very first started looking at the parkrun map to even start thinking about this challenge, there were a few runs that caught my eye. I have to confess that I’d been really excited about the prospect of Ganavan Sands from the off. My original thinking was to try and get to Oban around or before May, since I had been concerned that during the summer things might start to get a ‘wee bit midgey’. As it was, I needn’t have worried too much, since the little bitey things don’t much care for the rain. This does however mean that Oban now becomes the third on an ever increasing list of places I need to revisit in order to see the view. #17: Stonehaven currently carries the prize for this one, for a castle that I couldn’t see from 50 metres.
I love Sundays. I often have discussions with wifey on this, and I understand some out there aren’t keen, but for me it’s one of my favourite days of the week. During the week, I have a few regular commitments which mean that I’m out most evenings during the week. Saturday is well documented here, so by Sunday I shut the door and potter around the flat. I’m not great at sitting still, and we got rid of the TV ages ago, so this means making bread for the week, sandwich fillers, a big batch of curry for an easy dinner on Monday etc etc. Catching up on playing the piano, it’s good to have a few hours uninterrupted since learning new pieces is quite time consuming. By the end of the day, I tend to have a list of things that I’ve achieved, all of which make me feel like I’m ready for the week ahead. In my own bizarre fidgety way it’s like a rest as well. Well, I find it relaxing anyway.
Today as I’m writing this it is Sunday, and this morning was the Portobello Beach Race. This is the one race that my club Portobello RC organise, it’s one of those great club organised races, and I was marshalling on the course. It meant another early start for me, but then these days a ‘lie in’ for me means sleeping till around 8am. The race is about 4 miles for the old enough to know better category, and 1 mile for the kids. It’s almost entirely run on the beach, and you’re well advised to run in old trainers since you will definitely be getting your feet wet at least once. It’s great fun, and if that’s not enough for you, you should see the spread we put on at the finish.
Oban is one of the parkrun destinations where even if I could have done it in a day, I probably wouldn’t have. I had originally thought of maybe going for a long weekend and catching a ferry over to one of the islands and doing some exploring. As it was, things didn’t really work out this time, but doubtless I’ll be back over there before too long. My original plan was to do Oban a few weeks back, but since there must have been wedding on or something, and absolutely nowhere to stay was available for less than an extortionate amount of money, things had to wait.
Arriving into Oban on Friday early evening, we did a little exploring and saw the most beautiful of sunsets over the bay. The forecast for Saturday persisted in its pessimism, and though it seemed impossible on a beautiful Friday evening I’ve now lived in Scotland long enough that I didn’t doubt it for a minute.
Sure enough, Saturday arrived and it did not disappoint. The rain was the sort you can hear before you even peel back the curtains, with the islands sort of smirking behind the clouds in the distance. Thankfully it wasn’t too cold, and since we’d now had the views the day before, we could enjoy the run without being bitten to shreds. In many ways, I guess this was an ideal scenario.
As the briefing got under way on what looks like a ramp onto the course, the rain gives it one last yelp before skulking off and leaving our merry band with a nearly pleasant morning. We move up to the start, and it’s time to get going.
I’d read beforehand that the start of this course was up a steep hill. As we hit it, I can definitely attest that it’s fairly steep, but mercifully short. I then see a sign as we come to the corner warning of a steep hill, and I inwardly remark that it seems a little bit too late, before we turn another corner and see a wall in front of us. It’s a bit like the first bit of a rollercoaster that takes you up in the air before the fun begins. I shorten my stride, dig in, and looking at Strava afterwards I see that the hill hit 37%… Now *that* is a hill ladies and gents. I stagger to the top, round the corner and we’re off. Since the course description on the website mentions only 2 hills, I didn’t think there were any others. It would be more correct to say that there are 2 flat bits, though I’m not entirely sure I remember where they were. I’m getting ahead of myself though…
As we turn to the left we come out into the open, ferns stretching out to both sides and we can see the course snaking a Z shape, undulating but ultimately drifting uphill, and I can see the fast boys pushing ahead up the way. I’m not chasing a PB today, and as I notice I’m in 5th place, if I can keep hold of that I’ll be chuffed with the day’s work regardless of the time. Round a left hander and we’re into a short wooded area; in keeping with the rollercoaster theme of today’s run it’s a little like the covered sections on a log flume, and right on cue we plummet down a steep hill out of the trees onto the next section of the course. A hard right hander, then we start sweeping round to the left with a vista of green punctuated by the road visible in the far distance, and I can see foxgloves on my left. Mile #1 done in 7.02 which seems way too fast given the course so far.
As I look back to the path in front of me I see the lead guy coming back at me so I must be nearing the turn. The marshal for that turn is stood at the top of a short, steepish hill, which seems almost deliberately cruel, but then I guess that is how a rollercoaster is often sent on its way back down the track for part 2. I get to the marshal, tag him saying ‘tag, you’re it!’ then scarper off back along the way I came chuckling to myself. Poor guy probably wondered what on earth I was on about. As we head back toward the start, I now have the rest of the race coming toward me and a massive grin on my face. Wifey comes into view, she’s doing brilliantly, and all of this is taking me away from the constant undulations which are pummelling us as we push on and round. Round the sharp left bend we saw earlier, and now the log flume splash is looking a lot less friendly in reverse – no matter, dig in, push push push and we’re up and done. Mile #2 at 7.30, which seems much more like I had been expecting.
Out of the short wooded section and back to the Glen of Zorro, I’m now waiting to see when I will see the lead guys coming back toward us. Since the course is an out and back a bit, out and back course, we’ll be turning again soon. I breathe an inward sigh of relief that the turn is further back toward the start, since if we were going right back to the further point again we would be climbing the log flume twice. Snaking down hill again I now see the lead guy and know we’re turning soon. Round a sharp right hand, down a short steep hill and turn to go straight back up that hill and out onto the zigzag again. This now means a second opportunity to see fellow runners coming back toward me. Amongst the horde today, we have a guy with a pushchair, which, given that I am having to work damn hard to get just myself up the hills, is amazing. If that weren’t impressive enough, there is also a lady running who is 31 weeks pregnant. Now, I remember once trying to run with a bottle on a holster and found it impossible. I find it difficult enough running with a bit of wind, so I have no idea how this is done. People are bloody amazing.
Into the short wooded section and we turn for home which gives us another chance to see fellow runners. As well as the stunning scenery and challenging nature of this course, this is one of my favourite aspects of this course. I see wifey again, she’s looking comfortable, and as I snake down through the Glen of Zorro I’m told I look far too happy. I’m grinning from ear to ear, and I start to think maybe I could inch it up a notch. I’ve been hot on the tail of a guy for the whole run, I feel for the poor chap having to listen to me wheezing, and as we go up a small climb I creep up level with him. Maybe I’ll take 4th place? As we get to the top though, I’ve pushed a bit hard and I fall back slightly. I fall into my own thoughts, and the next time I look up he’s gained 5 metres on me. By this point, we now just have the steep hill we climbed at the start to descend, and though I’m not terrible at running down hills, to pull him back I would really need to do something slightly unsafe given the wet paths. I’m not that fussed so I just relax and enjoy tumbling down the hill and into the finish.
That was brilliant.
Scores! 5th place, 22.22