Two 10ks in two weekends: Foxtrail 10k (Balgone) and Cross the Border 10k

After saying I had no running aims at the beginning of the year, I soon decided that I wanted to try and race more in 2018. Over the years, I have never really raced very much and as I tend to do most of my runs on my own I actually find them quite a stressful experience. I enjoy the accomplishment of crossing the finish line but get a bit stressed out with the hanging around at the start and all the talk of times. I have never been the fastest of runners but have got slower after a number of illness set backs and when race day comes I can't help but think about the times that I used to run.

Trail running has helped change my attitude as there isn't that same comparison of times and so this year I really just want to get out and enjoy racing and that feeling of accomplishment of crossing the line, running in places I have never ran before. So my new aim for 2018 is to run a race every month in 2018 - and for a little twist I need to have some bling to show for it.

Foxtrail Race 4: Balgone 10k

My first race of 2018 was the fourth race in the Foxtrail Winter Series, affectionately known as the hilly one! I had ran part of the course last year during the 5k race so I knew that there was a sting in the tail. Unfortunately, I hadn't been well in the few weeks running up to this race, hit by the lurgy doing the rounds, and had only managed about 5 miles in 2 weeks, which was actually two runs the week of the race testing to see if I would be able to run. Race day was a cold one, we had been warned of mud but much of it was still frozen during the race. I started off at a nice easy pace at the back of the pack and soon found myself on my own, having been passed by the cani-crossers, which strangely helped relax me (although I later discovered that there was someone behind me). My aim for the Foxtrail races has simply been to complete the series. To qualify you need to run 4 of the 6 races and as this was my fourth race it was simply a case of getting round. The first half of the race follows parts of the John Muir Way through forest trails - I even managed to spot a deer running through the forest, the poor thing must have been startled by other runners. The second half of the race is where the fun starts with the hills and I soon discovered that my fitness was not where it needed to be. I allowed myself walk breaks but challenged myself to only walk for the hills and only for a maximum of 30 seconds and to run for at least 30 seconds before letting myself stop to walk again. The technique worked and the miles soon ticked by and I even started to catch sight of the runners in front. As I headed up towards the road back to the farm, I could see Owain waiting at the top for me and he ran the final corner with me. And much to my surprise, I even had a wee support crew waiting at the finish line. In terms of time, I think it was a personal worst for me but it was actually one of my favourite races. No pressure from the beginning as there was no-one to pass me and such a lovely course. I am truly a trail convert and would thoroughly recommend the Foxtrail Series to everyone, whether it be the 5k series or the full series. 

Unfortunately no medals are given out for the Foxtrail runs (except the Harvest Moon half marathon) so I needed to look elsewhere to get my January medal. As fate would have it, the Cross the Border 10k happened to pop up on Facebook, falling on the final weekend in January, so we decided to enter that on a bit of a whim.

Cross the Border 10k

This race pretty much does what it says on the tin - you run across the Border and they then bus you back to the start. This year was the reverse route which saw us running from Carlisle to Gretna. The race was a 9am start and, given my birthday is next week, we opted for a cheeky wee night away in Gretna rather than having the early start that other runners had. We arrived at the race start about 8.20 and were a bit surprised to see massive queues already for the number collection and the toilets. When we got out the car, the first thing that hit us was the wind I quickly began to doubt my decision to run in my tshirt and 3/4s. We joined the queue and collected our numbers and I then joined the toilet queue. At this point my race had almost finished before it started as while I was chatting to friends a gust came and whipped my number out my hands - I had to run across the car park after it and thankfully it got wedged under the wheel of a van. Having stood in the toilet queue for so long, I decided that I was going to have to just go with my decision of the short sleeve so that I could pin my number while I was waiting. I quickly chucked the rest of my stuff in the car, wished Owain good luck and made my way to the start line.

Over the last year or so, I think I have only managed to run one 10k race without having to stop and walk and so the aim for today was to run non-stop for the full route. Friends who had ran the course before had warned that it was undulating but the inclines were over flyovers, therefore, what went up had to then come down. The start of the race was pretty sheltered - but of course we only discovered this when we hit the winds running along the exposed parts of the course. Typically, the most exposed parts were up hills and at times it felt that I was going backwards but I just persevered and kept pushing as best as I could. I haven't ran a road race for a while so wasn't sure how I would find it but having settled in to a nice pace the k's soon ticked past. Owain had planned on running the route in reverse once he had finished (depending on how bad the gusts were) and so I had that distraction from about half way through the race. I think we passed each other around 7-8k and his hi-5 was a nice little boost for me. It was rather amusing to hear the two runners next to me ponder about what time he must have finished in and how demotivating it was - so I chatted with them for a while saying it was my husband and so imagine how I felt! I don't tend to talk during runs let alone races but was nice to have a wee bit of chat to keep me going.

From about 9k onwards there was a steady stream of runners coming back along the route and that helped me focus on the end being in sight. I managed to spot Louise, a former Pitreavie runner, just as I was approaching the final corner so got a hi-5 from her. I hadn't really looked at my watch during the race so had no idea what time I was on for but I had a look at my watch and saw that my pace was around 11 min/mile, a time I didn't think possible with my current fitness levels. The finish line was a bit confusing, with so many people standing about, but I was able to pick the pace up and have my traditional sprint finish - even though Owain wasn't there to see it - and came in at 1:07:55. Over 10 minutes faster than last week's time at Foxtrail and a nice bling medal to show for it. I have to say it is the first time in a long, long time that I have felt pleased with my run. 

As February approaches, so does the next race. Race 5 of the Foxtrail Series takes place on Saturday - and it is the one I have been most dreading, the Harvest Moon Half Marathon. I have to be completely honest and say at this stage I am not sure whether I am going to run the race or not. My illness at the beginning of the year has thrown my training off track and I have only did one double digit run this year so I am not sure if it is a step to far. Last year, the weather was so bad that I didn't even go to support so have decided to wait to later in the week before making my final decision.

 

Mandy Williams

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