First hill race ever for me! I’ve been psyching myself up to tackling something of a more vertical nature, and picked this wee beast because it’s a short distance (4.8km), and they allow 10 year olds to take part. How hard can it be?!
On waking up to torrential rain, I was somewhat uneasy about the event. However, the rain cleared, and we arrived to find North Berwick bathed in late afternoon sunshine, looking marvellous! Registration was quick and easy, though I put that down to arriving just after it opened for business. Closer to the start time, the queue was down the street. I found fellow Harriers Sadie, Michael, Gillian, Chris, and Sarah milling about the harbour, and we spend the last 20mins before the race chattering and feeling nervous. Well, I felt nervous anyway!
The start gun sounded and suddenly we were off! Straight away you head uphill from the harbour, up the main street, and into the park. Cutting across the park, I had to remind myself to slow down otherwise I’d quickly run out of juice. Although this definitely was a sprint, not a marathon, I knew I’d crumble if I went all out too early. I lost sight of the other Harriers early on (speedy folks, these Harriers!), so concentrated on finding a pace I could maintain.
After the park, and a more level run through a more residential area, we were into the parkland that surrounds the base of the Law, and then quickly onto the single track path up the Law itself. There was no easing into this: you were relatively flat, and then you were going up at a very steep gradient. Although I stopped running at this point, I maintained a good ‘pounding’ pace; quicker than walking, but not quite trotting. I did get a bit frustrated at being stuck behind some slower competitors, not their fault, but as I say that track did not allow for easy overtaking. I got past people where I could, and was surprised at how quickly I reached the top. I guess when your head is down, and you’re concentrating on not stopping, and keeping breathing, you just get it done. We collected bands from marshalls at the top (which proved we’d made it), and then it was on to the descent. I think the views were beautiful, but honestly, I didn’t really lift my eyes long enough to take it in.
The descent. Oh my days! I don’t have a lot of experience in steep running descents, but this seemed pretty serious to me, and while I’d have loved to have simply hurtled down the slopes (like some mad HBT runners that passed me on their way down), I was too afraid for my ankles to throw caution completely to the wind. The rain had made the mud slippy in places, and a few folk definitely bit the dust. The rocks, however, were dry, and I was thankful I’d put my trail shoes on rather than my road runners, as I stuck easily to the rock, and was able to pick up the pace a bit. I saw Sarah on the descent, and tried to match her pace. Not sure where everyone else was, ahead of me somewhere!
I felt great on the descent, confident I’d left enough in the tank for a speedy sprint home, but this was misguided. The gradient of the hill gave me a lot of momentum, but when I hit the flatter sections I really had to fight to keep going. My legs felt heavier than they have ever done (hello lactic acid!), and I felt really quite sick at one point. However, the spectators were really great at providing encouragement, and I slogged on to the park, from where it really was all downhill! A few shouts of “Come on, Penicuik!” from the marshalls helped even more. The best part of the entire race, though, was running through the park gates and into the High Street. Hundreds of spectators had gathered, all of them were cheering, and there was even a pipe band playing! I think this was coincidence rather than planned, but at this point I just started feeling goosebumpy and smiley, and willed my legs to run the last few hundred metres to the finish.
Finish I did, and was handed a medal, and traded my band from the top of the hill for the best bottle of water ever. It had been a very hot run, and my face felt like (and resembled) a Belisha beacon. I met up with the other Harriers, who all looked similarly pleased, and then met some runner friends from other clubs for a well earned chippy and bottle of Coke (ok, not the best recovery I know, but it WAS North Berwick!)
This was such a fun event, the community of North Berwick were brilliant, and I felt the organisation was spot on. Not sure about official results, or where or when these might be released, so watch this space. I reckon I was somewhere in the 30min mark, give or take a few on either side. Thanks to fellow Harriers for the encouragement, and to Susie for loaning me her vest! Wearing the Harriers colours did make me feel part of something really quite wonderful, and who knows, maybe I’ll even do another hill run 🙂