On Friday we headed North via Fochabers Chip shop, [forget the deep fried mars bar handle, they have thee best chips] for a tough-of-the-track style pie supper and checked into our favourite rest place in Inverness, the Glen Druidh Hotel http://www.cozzee-nessie-bed.co.uk/ which is amok with wildlife. I had a relatively early night and slept well after quaffing litres of electrolyte drink in preparation for a scorching race-day heatwave. Indeed we woke through the night and had to open more windows. The hazey har that greeted us in the morning confirmed the weather forecast, so I ditched the red and black outfit in favour of, yep, my “usual” halgofs intense cream vest and skins/Nike baggy shorts combo, same stuff I wore at the Benbecula half marathon.
Adrenalin was making my hands a bit shaky at breakfast; it dawned on me that I would be re-running my first half marathon again. Nairn in 2010 was my first ever 13 mile run, having only completed 12 miles the previous week and it wasn’t pleasant. I nearly got overtaken by a pipeband on the final straight and the high winds and undulating course made it a really naff experience. I have of course run hillier, windier and faster half marathon times since, but Nairn represented a special demon for me and I wanted to anihilate it today.
Pre-race I kept up the fluids and soaked up the heat and atmosphere of the MacCallan sponsored Highland Games. I also bumped into Marion’s husband Iain (bib 94), a very accomplished club runner who works in the same office as I do. Here we are at the start and I’m alleviating pre-race nerves with a bit of banter. Without warning we were off!
Iain went passed me as we left the grass loop and I tried to settle into a sensible pace, carrying a full carb drink, 3 gels and a neurofen, just encase. I opted to leave the ipod behind as it was just too hot to contemplate wearing anything extra. Moving
through the first few miles I noticed David, a local Fetch Everyone forumite and we ran together whilst catching up and comparing injuries. I was a little ahead of myself at this point as we got up the hill and into the 3rd mile in 26.20. David moved off at the water station whereas I slowed, took gel and 3 cups of water. I was really sweating by this point and experiencing that lovely stinging sensation underneath my sunspecs as the sweat poured down my face. I decided I would try and keep David in my sights but my pace was feeling uncomfortable and I took the pragmatic approach to keep an even effort and conserve energy until within striking distance of water stations.
I re-caught David for a little bit and told him he was looking comfortable and he really was. Then we hit a hump-back bridge. A complete Saint had put out a walk-through makeshift hose shower and I gratefully loitered through that as the second water station allowed me another 3 cups of water. I walked through mile 6 in 52.40. Next came a cooler flattish section through the woods where we managed to pass a few folk. The run out to the turnpoint and back was blisteringly hot and I was wilting and not experiencing that homeward bound feeling that I get once I know I’ve completed more than 50% of the race. I had nearly finished my carb drink too (this usually lasts me the whole half distance).
Hats off the to the gent at the next water station who grappled around for a bottle of water for me. I probably seemed ungrateful as I mumbled about needing it to take my gel and neurofen with. SORRY! As we headed out into the wind, which didn’t cool much and just held us back, I noticed the pace really dropping off so I stopped looking at the Garmin and just got my head down. I took the meltlet as my left toes were feeling a bit bruised. But the effort was steady and gradually, eventually, runner’s started being passed by David and then about 50 yards behind, by me. There were some really scary looking weavers and as I saw the ambulance driving towards us, I knew someone somewhere was seriously struggling! I exchanged a few words with runners as I passed them; most said they were ‘done’ or ‘spent’. Even club runners were walking and we all seemed to be on the maintenance shuffle.
“In the heat, you race for place and not for time” and whoever said that (or similar) must surely have had today’s race in mind!
Luckily I had grabbed another water bottle and used someones discarded bottle to soak myself with and was honestly, as well hydrated as I could have been – over 3 Litres of water drunk and no need to use the loo. As we came into the town I met with David once again and we decided that a 10 minute mile was alright, considering 😉 We started passing a few folk and asked them to stay with us, in an end of tough race cameraderie. We were both in relatively good shape, notably because D was well under his normal RP and I had been making-like-a-camel and waterboarding for the entire race. I was certainly in much better condition than when I last ran this part of thr course!! Before long we were on the final prom home and swatting wayward kids out of the way and shouting ahead “excuse me”. Loads of well done’s from finished runners and I got a little burn on, pun intended, targetting a lady who was struggling up ahead. Sorry lady but thanks for keeping me going.
As I heaved into the playing field I was hopeful that no one would re-pass me and they didn’t. I followed the yellow line around the outside of the track, swerved the picniccers sitting inside it and was so thankful to hear my name called out of over the tannoy. I clicked the Garmin off at 2:04:53.
That time might not be much to write home about but after speaking to Maureen, one of the other veteran prize winners from the Heb 3 series, she said she was faster on those far hillier courses than she was today. Well done lady- she picked up another prize despite the weather and relative slow time. A couple of other runners said they were 8-10 minutes off recent half times, so all in all, I’m pleased with todays performance. I did manage to Hang Tough, felt OK at the end and I’m pleased I put the Nairn Demons to rest. I enjoyed catching up with Iain (1:48), David (just a few seconds behind me) and a couple of other local and Heb 3 runners after the race and drank down another Litre of fluid and scoffed crisps and mars bar. I also managed to see a few of the local attractions, like the pipe bands.
And so, I can safely say that the Nairn Half is no longer my running nemesis. I was a bit disappointed back in 2010 not to have got a medal for finishing my first half but this year, a medal and a cool orange buff courtesy of the local running club were in the goody bag. Thanks Nairn. I got a nice, albeit patchy sun-tan too 😉 Now, where can I find a flattish, drizzly half marathon??
Official result 121/184 runners, in 2 hrs 4 mins and 58 seconds