Devilla 15k is a multi terrain race which takes place in Devilla forest just behind Tulliallan Police college in Alloa, Scotland.
Last year the race was the day after the Scottish National Cross Country championships in Falkirk and I ran both races. Last year I finished in the prizes and I had hoped for something similar this year, but my real aim was a PB.
I didn't run the Nationals this year, the reason behind this was I didn't want to start the XC season with one club but then race the Nationals with a different club. I do enjoy the Nationals, 12k of mud over a challenging course. I'll be back next year!
Devilla was going to be my first competitive race against other club runners of the year, excluding Edinburgh parkruns. It was going to be the first race I was up against my old training mates from Pitreavie AAC and to say I was a bit nervous was an understatement. Crazy I know but in some small way, I wanted to justify that moving to Edinburgh AC, doing their training and running for them was the right move for me. It was almost time to find out!
Before the start of the race, the drive to Alloa was pretty horrific, the car was being blown around the M9 and the rain was pretty heavy at times. It's the sort of day that all the training in the cold winter evenings hardens you up for. The sort of race which you never want to arrive.
Once I arrived it was a short walk with Mandy to the registration hall, picked up my race number, chip and free bottle of beer and then took a seat in the hallway. There is a Starbucks on site so Mandy and I shared a coffee while we waited for the time to come to go race.
Mandy wasn't racing today, last year she did run the 5k which is on at the same time but I think secretly she was very happy not to be running in the conditions which were looking tough outside.
With about 20 mins to go before the race start I decided to head out for a warm up. Still in my waterproofs and jacket, hood up, trail shoes on, I headed out up the course to see what it was like. I wasn't sure whether I should wear my merino base layer or to go out in just my vest and shorts.
After an easy mile in up the track I realised this was going to be warmer than expected and it was also going to be very muddy! A mile in there was already a large puddle of muddy water waiting for us. At this point I turned back and jogged back to the start to get ready for the race.
On the start line the rain had stopped, the countdown began and we were off.
The first mile went by without any real issues, I was feeling comfortable and running through the forest was great fun. Ducking and dodging the trees, trying to find the best grip to make the most of the conditions. I had been running with another runner up until the forest section but once in the forest I felt I was making a gap between us. I later spoke to the runner and found out he had road shoes on which were offering him no grip at all on the muddy conditions we were taking on. The Talon 212's did me proud again.
The route is marked out by marshals and spray paint / flour arrows on the ground which we followed but it wasn't until mile 2 clocked by on my watch I remember thinking, I don't remember this part of the course from last year. It was a fleeting thought and before I knew it I was on the access road which I guess the forestry workers use to access areas around the hill.
Following the runner in front of me as if attached by a string we headed up the road, took a right and then doubts started to pop in to my head, doubts which I've never had in any race before. The doubt of 'are we actually running the right way?', we headed up a hill and all the arrows were pointing back at us. The race was organised by Carnegie Harriers and the closest runner in front of me was a Carnegie runner but he was constantly looking behind him with a confused look on his face, this didn't settle my nerves at all!
It wasn't long until we arrived at the water station and our fears were confirmed by the marshals, we had gone wrong somewhere but luckily with their quick thinking they directed us back on to the route.
Long story short - due to me already typing this blog and loosing it all! - the mud got thicker, the rain got heavier and the course was 2.5k shorter than advertised. To say I was annoyed was an understatement but it's just one of those things I guess. Rumours are that someone sabotaged the route, whether we will ever know the truth is another question.
The Scotsman Newspaper and other national papers did cover the story - must have been a slow news day! Read the article.
In the end, because the course was short it was a PB for me, I did finish 7th overall and came 5th Senior male home, which meant I also got a prize! All in all, not a bad day and I did enjoy the different course - by the sounds of things, the bit we missed was a mud bath!
This is the route we ran this year.
and the route we all ran last year, you can see the difference in the course.