This morning, Kenny and I piled into a car full of Harriers and made our way out to Livingston for the National Road Relays. Neither of us had taken part in this event before however the idea of a 6-person relay team, alternating with short and long legs, was one which sounded a little bit different and therefore caught our interest. Fresh off the back of his glorious victory yesterday, Kenny was lined up with a long leg and I too found myself faced with the prospect of the 5.8mile distance.
It was a funny experience, stepping into the hall in which teams from across Scotland were preparing for their own personal battles. The usual ‘pre-race buzz’ was certainly there, but there was also a strange sense of calm – many of the runners would not actually be treading the start line for another couple of hours as they awaited the arrival of their teammates. For me, as the sixth runner in my team, the realisation that I would not actually be running for a while led me to enjoy a rather different approach to the race from usual. I armed myself with a coffee and a banana, stuck on an extra couple of layers, and picked a spot where I could watch the start of the race and enjoy the later drama of the changeovers.
Bella Harriers were lucky enough to field several teams which meant I spent the next couple of hours able to watch many of my club-mates burst out of the start line and dig deep as they returned to pass me again for the final hundred metres or so. It was fascinating watching the race unfold and over the course of the first four legs, the leading team changed four teams. Bella were putting in some fantastic performances and (of course) were the loudest set of cheerleaders going! I watched Kenny stride confidently away from the start line as he took the fourth leg for his own team, motivated, I am sure, by his performance of yesterday (as well as the prospect of some post-race macaroni cheese), when I realised that I was actually going to have to make a move myself and prepare for my own leg! I waited until Colin handed over to Gregor, who would be running our penultimate leg, before jogging back to the hall to shed my layers and get warmed up.
As I laced up my racing shoes I couldn’t help but notice the HUGE crate of scones which Mike had provided and realised that I had found my motivation – I had to finish my leg as quickly as possible in order to return in time for a large coffee and a scone with jam. The start itself was a bit of a funny one. As I would be waiting for Gregor to complete his leg before I could start, it was impossible to know when I would begin! I decided to get a fairly swift warm up in before heading down to the holding pen at the start line. A quick briefing from Tom Keenan on team performances so far revealed that we were on track for a big improvement on last year’s time – the realisation that my five team mates had put down some great times added to the motivation that I needed to put in a solid performance. I did not want to be the one to let the side down! I spotted Gregor striding along the final straight and took up my position on the start line.
I bounded away from the start line with no real idea of how far away my nearest competitors were or how quickly those behind me would be chasing. A cheer from the rest of the Harriers sent me on my way and before I knew it I was striding uphill and breathing pretty heavily. The first mile passed quickly (a little too quickly according to my Garmin) and I managed to pass a few of the short leg athletes who had started ahead of me. There was still no sign of the team in front of ours and this proved to be the way of the race. I found myself running alone for the middle few miles and this was incredibly challenging. I knew that I wanted to put down a decent time in preparation for next week’s Tom Scott 10 Miler, yet it is incredibly hard to motivate yourself to continue to push and suffer when you are running in isolation (or at least that’s how it felt to me at the time!).
With a mile to go my route rejoined that of the short leg runners which gave me something to focus on as I slowly reeled in a few bodies. The final section however was tough and seemed to go on forever. I could hear the finish line for what felt like an eternity before I could actually see it – courtesy I am sure of the fantastic Bella cheering squad – which meant that I kept thinking it would be around the next corner. Four or five corners later I was finally spat out onto the final straight and was able to put in one last push towards the finish line. I crossed the line in 32:02 and was delighted. This was the boost I needed in preparation for next week and I can’t wait to get out and race again. I also discovered that Kenny had put in a solid performance with 38:20 so it was a decent weekend for the both of us!
It transpired that the Harriers had experienced a fantastic day across the board. Our men’s first team came home in 11th place (a huge jump from last year’s 18th and the highest finishing position for a Harriers Male team since 1991) and the Women’s Masters team took home a bronze medal after some fantastic performances. Particular mention should also go to women’s captain Caroline Cochran who put in a great run as part of the medal-winning team during her final run as a Harrier. Post-run coffee and cake was hugely appreciated and Kenny even managed to find himself a mammoth portion of macaroni – some epic carb-loading for next week’s race, perhaps?!