#26: Aberdeen

Back from #25: Ellon, work Monday, mini break with the inlaws in Kinloch Rannoch Tuesday and Wednesday and the prospect of a conference about our personal energies on Thursday had clearly left me feeling a bit discombobulated. I woke up at 5.18am from a dream in which I was at a friends wedding and had stood up to give an impromptu speech about love. I have no idea what I was going to say, but clearly dream me had something decent up his sleeve. My innate terror of public speaking aside, none of this is probably that weird, only the actual wedding in question happened before I knew said friend. Things got stranger still on the way to the conference when I bumped into this friend. Sadly it’s a bit late now to debate on whether I should or shouldn’t have told him about my creepy stalker tendency to dream invite myself to weddings. Thinking back on it now, I have to wonder what someone would do with that information. ‘Oh, by the way, I went to your wedding last night in my dream, it was lovely’. On the plus side though, I’m definitely the cheapest guest they had.

Feeling duly enraged energised following the conference, I returned to the office on Friday for only the second time in a week. Having returned from a break now twice in the same week, it felt like many weeks had gone past. The evening though meant a second trip up to Aberdeen, and the miles travelled up to around 800. On the way home from the office I spent the short cycle ride trying to figure out which would be quicker, cooking potatoes or walking to the local chip shop and back. I eventually reasoned that I could spend some of the cooking time packing, and there would be plenty of opportunity for chips another time.

I can’t deny that me and Aberdeen got off to a bit of a rocky start. Back when I first ventured to the city, I got the Friday evening train which happened to be full of loud drunks. The thing with alcohol is that it can be a great deal of fun, providing that you are at least as drunk as everyone else around you. I arrived into Aberdeen around 10pm, and let’s be honest, which city will come across well to a sober stranger at 10pm on a Friday evening? The next day though was absolutely glorious, and #16: Hazlehead proved to be one of the most beautiful routes you could hope for. My friend based in the area showed me the beach. Left to my own devices, I found a lovely cafe where the owners bombarded me with kindness.

A sense of dread started to set in as I got into the train station to catch the same train I’d caught all those months ago. Thankfully though this came to nothing, and though the carriage was fairly full, there was just a faint civilised murmur around which meant I could get stuck into my book, occasionally looking up to admire the view. One thing that’s been great during this challenge is the train rides I’ve taken. I don’t think I’m in any danger of going out to spot trains anytime soon, though I do own a thermos flask. The ride up to Aberdeen first of all crosses the Forth, then skirts around the Fife coast before coming inland through fields to Dundee. Once you cross the Tay to Dundee, you then again hug the coastline most of the way up to Aberdeen. If you happen to like a sea view, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Before arriving into Aberdeen, it dawned on me that I’d not brought anything with me for breakfast. Though the hotel I’d booked into do a buffet style thing, my stomach is something of a prima donna before running. The price I’d end up paying for the meagre ration I’d actually want just wouldn’t add up, so I set about searching for a supermarket to call into. As luck would have it, just such a place was located 5 minutes walk from the hotel, and was open till 11. Even better still, they had butteries.

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For anyone that hasn’t tried this delicacy, try to imagine something in the middle of a croissant and a squashed bread roll, packed with salt. When you toast them, the high fat content means they stay really hot for ages and I often end up burning my fingers on them. They’re basically concentrated evil, and I’m not even that sure they’re fit for human consumption… but oh my word they taste good. Only, they do if they’re toasted. If, however, you’re in a hotel room, and your only method available for heating them is to put one on top of a cup of boiling liquid like a stroopwafel, I really can’t endorse the result.

Off I then went in search of the start line. Though this would be one of the longest warm up runs I’ve had, it was also one of the most straightforward. Simply head up the road to the sea, hang a left and keep going and going. The morning was turning out to be a good one, the sun trying to get out through the haze and fairly warm. I’d wanted to bring my phone so I could take some photos, and in the end the best way I could think of to do this was to wear my coat. The coat was otherwise a completely daft idea, but thankfully I do now have some nice photos.

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I have a theory about flat courses being the hardest courses to run. Most will automatically think of hilly courses when listing the hardest courses, and with longer distances I would tend to agree with that. Over 5km though, if you are aiming to run fast, be careful what you wish for. On a hilly course, the course is automatically broken down into chunks. You have easy focal points to set your mind to, and in the run up to those hills you might allow yourself to ease off a touch in order to give the climb your best. After you’ve hit the top, you get a sense of achievement as you then get to pile it down the other side. If a course is pancake flat though, you have no such distractions. You simply wind it up so that you are on the limit, then stay there for however long the course takes you. As I jogged up the esplanade to the start line, I noticed that the wind was today coming across me, which if you’re going to run on the seafront is one of the better options available. I was also feeling sort of OK. This was pretty worrying, flat course, no headwind, feeling OK… absolutely no excuses came to mind. Oh dear. I then got a mention in the run briefing, so no pressure!

Best foot forward, and off we go! The first section of the course is on a very gentle uphill and follows the final stretch of the river Don as it reaches the sea. We arch gently right so that we’re running on the path near the road along the sea. The path is pretty wide, and we’re quickly spread out so I’ve got as much room as I could want. I’m trying to keep to what I think is a sensible pace and keeping the runners around me fairly constant. We pass bench after bench sometimes having to move slightly right to compensate. I glance right to see tower blocks and reason I’m better off looking out to sea. In the sea are a multitude of big ships which appear static. Back forward, and in the haze of the morning I can see a big wheel a long, long way in the distance. #Mile 1 done in 6.50.

The wind coming across me has started to sculpt my hair into what feels like quite a bizarre shape. I start to wonder how this will play out when I turn round and things get evened up. The esplanade bends slightly to the left as we push onwards toward a postcard that seems frozen in time. I figure now we’re coming up on the half way point soon, so I start to look around for the front runners. I should really have read up on the route more thoroughly since I’m looking for them coming up on the same path I’m on, and suddenly I spot them on the lower esplanade below. Closing in on the turning point I spot the metal bollards we were warned about, a sharp left back on ourselves, down a ramp and we’re heading home. As we head into this section the runners ahead of me are hugging close into the wall. I’ve no idea if this is helping to provide much shelter, but I don’t want to feel left out and do likewise. Mile #2 6.56.

The last section fell into a pattern, with a ramp down with a white van at the bottom of it then a short ramp up. After this, a staircase going up with a shelter not long after. Once the three features had happened, the path then stretched out like elastic in front of us. I looked out to sea to find the ships had still not moved. Had I actually moved? I’d definitely put in a lot of effort that much was for sure. Down, up, stairs, shelter, stretch… puff puff wheeze. Down, up, stairs, shelter… stretch, puff puff wheeze. The waves are moving still, aren’t they? Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed a runner dart left and up, off the path – we’d reached the end! Sort of! I thanked the marshal and darted left up and back to the upper level to follow the path back down along the Don and to the finish line. I’d thought to myself as we headed out that the slight incline on the way out would be pretty handy on the way back in, and it certainly helped give me a boost as I got my head down and finished the job.

Over the line and I got to have a nice chat with the event director for Aberdeen, who’s also working through the Scottish parkruns. After I’d gotten back to the hotel, gotten myself clean and checked out I got to have a wander along the seafront and to just sit and admire the view. A quick dash into town for some lunch from a brilliant Mexican street food place then back to get a train. We might not have gotten off to the best start, but aye Aberdeen, you’re alright.

Scores! 21.35, 50th place

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