As we lay in Mabel the night before the Aviemore Half Marathon we did kind of wonder what we’d let ourselves in for. Pretty much all of Saturday it had rained heavily, and that continued for most of the night. It was good, proper Scottish Highland rain too, the sort that makes the dog refuse to go outside. The forecast said that on the Sunday there was a 95% chance of rain…
Which, on the bright side, meant that there was also a 5% chance it wouldn’t !!!
Well around 6am a miracle occurred… it stopped raining. We watched the sun come up over Loch Morlich and were frankly amazed. Is that.. blue sky ??
Yes, yes it is. Even the ducks looked happy.
Where’s the rain gone ??
We headed down into town to join the seemingly endless queue for the bus to take us up to the start. Before that there was the more pressing, and also seemingly endless, queue for the toilet to negotiate. This was where the second miracle of the day occurred. A bloke came out the main building and announced that there were toilets inside.. and the queue vanished.
Well, technically I think it just moved elsewhere, but it left us with a clear run to the portaloos.
We then caught the shuttle bus us up to the Badaguish centre where. Again there was a fair bit of waiting around to do but we found a warm corner of one of the buildings to wait in. If the toilet situation down the hill was bad, then up here it was even worse.
I wonder how many people took a wee walk into the forest 🙂
Ready for the off
About 10 minutes before the off we were called forward to the start lane. We were so far back that the first we knew the race had started was when the folk in front of us started moving and it took us almost 5 minutes to cross the start line. The trails were wide and smooth though, and good progress was made as we wound our way through the forrest.
The course is split almost exactly into two halves. The first skirts its way around Loch Morlich with one particularly nasty climb about 6K in. Apart from that it undulates more-or-less gently with some cracking scenery and beautiful views to enjoy.
As we may have mentioned, there had been a LOT of rain in the run up to the Half. This meant there were some quite big puddles to navigate. We just went for the “pile through the middle” approach, while other delicate flowers tried to keep their nice new trainers dry.
I think the one thing that the 2018 Aviemore Half Marathon will be remembered for was THE puddle. When I approached this there was a queue to take the high road along the right edge of what was part puddle, part small lake. I ploughed through the middle as my feet were already squelchy. Then.. it happened. Actually it probably happened more than once, but a girl tried to go along the left side of the puddle…
And vanished up to her waist.
You know that Vicar of Dibley scene, the one where Dawn French vanishes into the puddle ?
Well that, exactly that.
We pulled the poor soul out the water and got on with things. Just being a bit more circumspect about puddles and the perils that lurk within than before.
Apart from the big b*stard hill and THE puddle the first half of the race was just an enjoyable trot. I was hoping for a sun 2-hr half (my first) so I knew if I could get to the end of the forest section in an hour I’d be well on for that. I’d even set up my playlist so that if I was on time “Bound For Glory” by Black Star Riders would come on as I hit the main road. As it was I was slightly behind schedule at the start of the second half, but there was still hope.
A run of two halves.
At halfway, as mentioned, the course leaves the forest paths (and puddles) and hits the tarmac for 10K of pretty much uninterrupted ankle bothering downhill. I knew I had to average 5:40 per Km overall to get in under 2 hours but by half way I’d only managed 5:58 min/km. I was also beginning to regret having my watch tell me the pace every 5 minutes as it didn’t seem to be improving very quickly.
Some quick mental arithmetic ensued, and I knew if I could pick up the tempo I was still on for the target time. It was difficult not to get carried away on the long, straight, flat downhill but there was still a loooong way to go and this was all about making it to the end.
The plod down the hill was exactly that, a plod. I pressed on while trying not to obsess over my watch. Instead I just focused on picking off the people in front of me one by one. I also made sure I said thanks to all the marshals on the hill, they were doing a great job of cheering us runners on.
Playing mind games with myself kept the boredom at bay as the miles to the finish counted down. My mental arithmetic told me I could still make the target if I kept my current pace. Unfortunately my legs were telling me that wasn’t going to happen and my brain was heading into “what’s the point” mode.
About 3K from the finish I was about to give up on trying to beat 2 hours when inspiration came from an unexpected source. I started to slow down and a runner came alongside me and said they’d been using me to pace all the way down the hill. Kicking when I kicked and generally sticking close. We were both “breathing out our arses” (Their words, not mine) by this point but it was less than 2 miles to go so a pact was made. We weren’t going to stop, we were going to finish this together and WE WERE GOING TO BE UNDER 2 HOURS !!!
No we didn’t stop.
Yes we did finish together.
And yep, 1:58:40!!!!
We’re done with half marathons for the year!!!
The last bit of the course took us under the railway line then out onto the finish straight. I snuck a quick look at my watch as I went for the big finish. What do you know, the average pace was bang on 5:40 per Km.
Meanwhile, not that much further back, the other half of the GinRunners was going strong. Strong and on course for their second fastest Half Marathon ever, making it a great day all round. With the last Half of the year done we collected our medals and headed back to Mabel for the drive back to Edinburgh.
The Aviemore Half Marathon is a bit of an odd race. The bus to the start means that it’s mostly downhill which makes great for going more quickly than usual, but the long downhill road bit is everso slightly tedious. Saying that the meandering first half more than makes up for it, and the big f*cking hill means it’s far from an easy option.