Happily Ever After
Life in The Rural Retreat with a beautiful wife, three cats, garden wildlife, a camera, a computer – and increasing amounts about running
by Russell Turner - 12:04 on 03 September 2023
Week 4 of training is over. Five weeks to go until the Royal Parks Half Marathon.
This week’s long run was yesterday, so I was able to watch the Big Half and Sir Mo’s penultimate race on iPlayer with a clear conscience, even if he was running twice the distance I covered at the Huntly 10k – which turned out to be 10.5k because the course was slightly long. It was also lots of trail running, which meant some big climbs and an even steeper descent. I’m looking forward to the flat for next week’s 12-mile run.
I knew that Huntly would be a tough course (the winner took 40mins) but it was worth the 170-mile round trip, especially as Matchgirl had chosen to accompany me as a spectator. There was also a half and a 5k, plus a food fair, so the town square was heaving and a few roads were closed. Surprisingly, there was easy parking at the registration point at The Gordon Schools after inching past cars parked bumper to bumper on both sides of surrounding streets. Registration was also quiet, so I collected my race number and finisher’s shirt (I applaud the organisers’ confidence) with no fuss.
An hour later, after a very low-key countdown, 151 runners set off past the Schools, through its ornate Simpson Building arch (it must be quite a posh schools), along a tree-lined avenue past Huntly Castle, over the River Deveron footbridge then up another long drive to the Castle Hotel (closed for refurbishment), across the B9022 and on to a rough track: 3k done in under 19mins and the first proper climb, to the Bin Forest, about to begin.
The next kilometre was a killer: almost 60m of ascent which meant my ultra walking came into play. Most others were walking too, the racing snakes being well ahead. The views were scenic but I was more interested in watching the path to avoid loose rocks and tree roots. The fifth kilometre was undulating (more walking needed) followed by some pleasant downhill which made another sharp rise of 33m in 300m all the more unwelcome.
The eighth kilometre should have been a breeze, being mostly downhill, but so steep I had to walk some of it rather than risk losing balance. Short runners have it easy.
The final 2.5k found us back on proper, flattish roads; despite all the climbing, or because of the walking, my tenth kilometre was the fastest. Knowing the finish is near is a big spur, even after 10k with the finish not yet in sight. There were enough cheering people as I crossed line to make it feel like an achievement, which was a bonus.
Another bonus was stopping on the way home at a Forres garden centre (I wasn’t hungry enough immediately after finishing to cope with food fair crowds) and discovering a superb baked potato with three rashers of bacon, generous chunks of brie, proper salad and a huge dollop of coleslaw. Just what I needed. There wasn’t even room left for cake.
The run left one heel a little sore but I’m happy to report that all feels well this morning. As for the Huntly 10k, now I’ve done it I’m in no hurry to repeat the experience (maybe that’s why 50 people signed up but didn’t reach the start) but I’d certainly recommend the race.
I don’t think, though, I’d be brave enough to take on the half marathon option, with even more trail climbing included. For short races, the road is the place to be.
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