Having been introduced to trail running at the Foxtrail 5k series last year and running with the Foxy Trail Runners group over the Summer, I knew I would be signing up this year. However, the big question for me was whether to stick to the 5k series and challenge myself in terms of time (with four races this year instead of three) or take on the challenge of the longer routes as part of the full series. After changing my mind a few times, I decided to take on the challenge of the full series. To qualify for the full series, you need to complete 4 races out of the 6 and when I signed up I wasn't sure whether I would be able to complete the full series which included a 16k and half marathon route.
As you will know if you have read my previous blog, I eventually decided to take on the challenge of running the full series of all six races and used Manchester Half Marathon as preparation. Unfortunately that wsan't the best plan as I injured myself after the race and it meant no running in the two weeks leading up to the start of the series.
Race 1: 13k (04 November)
As race day approached, I was feeling very nervous given my lack of running. I had only ran twice in the three weeks since Manchester and one of those was a tough start/stop run up the Pentlands as part of the ashmei run so I wasn't feeling particularly confident. On the Friday night I posted in our Foxy Trail Runners facebook page and the comments made me realise the real sense of community that exists within the trail running circuit and that there was no shame in coming last. It did help to know that others were in the same boat as me and that it's not all about racing, but actually about completing each "run" as it comes. I thought back to last year and the fact that I wasn't fit enough to run the full series and so focused on just completing the series.
Last year, Owain and I didn't really know anyone else at the races so it was lovely arriving and knowing so many faces from our Foxy runs. I don't particularly enjoy races so after catching up with a few folk I made my way to the back of the pack for the race start so that I could do my own thing. As the race started, I started chatting with a friend and we ran half mile or so together, swapping places before I pushed on a bit on my own. At this stage, I was just focusing on getting in to a nice rhythm as with my lack of training I wasn't sure what pace I would be able to run.
About 1.5 miles in, I caught up with a group of friends and chummed along at the back of them for about another 3 miles, including an out and back section which I think would have been tough on my own as the front runners were flying back towards us. That being said, we did get hi 5s and words of encouragement from the speedsters. I tend to do all my runs on my own so don't have the lung capacity to run and chat at the same time but it was nice being part of the group and adding some grunts to their conversations as and when I could.
As we approached the toilet block, they stopped to use the toilets but I had decided that I wanted to try and run it all the way so kept going - unfortunately with hindsight this was not my best decision. Within about a mile, I started toiling and really struggled coming along the technical section beside the beach and had to resort to walk/jog as I felt really uneasy running the technical paths given my ankle injury a few weeks before. Fortunately it wasn't long before a few others caught me and with one leading the way, we managed to run the majority of the way home.
As we turned the final corner, I began to feel really sick and it was such a struggle to run that final section on grass and get to the finish line. The pace was not particularly fast, I think my body had just had enough by that point.
However, I had achieved what I had set out to achieve. I knew the race was going to be a struggle given my lack of fitness but I was able to give Race 1 a tick to say I had completed it.
Race 2: 10k night run (01 December)
Race 2 of the series was the night run and this was the race I had been most looking forward to. It has now been added to the 5k series but last year it wasn't part of it so I watched on with envy as others took part. It is part of the East Lothian St Andrews Day celebration and there was such a great atmosphere with a marquee and disco. The buzz after the race was just amazing.
My only reservation in relation to this race was my clumsiness. Having had two race related falls this year already, injuring both ankles, I knew there was a high chance that I was likely to take a tumble. Before the race, we had a warm up led by Abbey of Project Awesome, which pretty much set the scene for an amazing race.
Before we started, John (the race organiser) did warn us about the water feature on the course which was shortly after we started. This would be my only criticism of the event. There was the option to go through the water or run beside it and it ended up with a huge queue opting not to go through the water. This so early on was difficult for me as I have asthma and struggle with running in the cold so starting and stopping wasn't great. It also meant that I quickly lost the folk that I had started running with and so was on my own for the rest of the race.
All that being said, this has to be my enjoyable run ever. The route is two 5k laps and I just took my time on the first lap to get familiar with the terrain. Unfortunately, there were a few falls around me but thankfully both were near marshals who swooped into action immediately to assist the fallen runners.
Having ran two loops, you would think that describing it would be easy but the dark made it that bit more difficult. The start, once through the water, was lovely, running through the forest on forest tracks with the trees lit up and people on the zip wires above us. Some of the stretches I knew from our Foxy Trail runs, which definitely helped. The one thing that really struck me was the peacefulness of it all, it is really hard to describe the feeling but even with other runners beside me it just felt serene and private. Well that was until we headed back into the forest and a certain photographer's flash went off - thanks Bob!! :)
As I came through the tent after the first lap, I had a wee dance to the music. I was feeling really good but knew not to get too excited as there was still another 5k of potential slips and trips, particularly as tiredness was likely to kick in. Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about and during both laps I was able to steadily pass a few runners - a rare occurrence for me and a nice wee confidence boost.
As I turned the final corner, my lovely husband was waiting for me and jogged the finishing straight with me. It was the most amazing feeling crossing the finish line, I have never ever felt a post-race buzz like that. Apologies to everyone that got sweaty hugs and babble! I think I enjoyed it so much as there was no pressure of time, it was too dark to see my watch and I made a conscious effort not to look at my pace so I had no idea what my time was, I was just running for pure enjoyment. I have to say a massive well done to the guys at Foxtrail and especially to the marshals, who definitely had the tougher job on the night standing in the dark waiting for us runners.
Race 3: 16k
The next race in the series takes place on Saturday and it is the longest one so far - 16k. I am a bit apprehensive about it as I haven't ran that far on trail before and there is even a section of beach running to look forward to. Over the last few weeks, I have managed to get in an 8 and 9 mile run so am feeling a bit more confident about this one than the 13k. The one potential spanner in the works is Christmas party nights. Owain and I are both out for our work dos on the Friday night so who knows what the Saturday will bring!!