After steadily building my miles up since the New Year, this was my first attempt at running a 10k this year. Normally I would stick to road running but after completing the Foxlake 5k series (which I still need to blog about) and a few Vogrie parkruns, I have been converted to trail running so the Winton 10k seemed perfect for my first 10k of the year. The Winton 10k takes place at Winton Castle as part of their open day. Previously titled the Pencaitland Fun Run, I thought this would be a nice introduction back to racing.
However, when the race approached, I quickly realised that this probably wasn’t my best decision. I knew it would be tougher than normal given it was trail but I hadn’t really thought about the logistics of the day. The race started at 2pm which may not seem too bad but I tend to avoid races that start after midday as I am one of those runners that only needs to think about going for a run and I start overheating. Typically, the sun was shining happily in the sky by the time we left for the race. Being Scottish, I do feel terrible complaining about nice weather given we don’t see it that often but for me, running and nice weather do not mix.
Before we picked up our numbers, we had a quick stop off at what has to be the poshest race toilets ever! Apparently, the gents were just as fancy!
On collecting our numbers, I was quite surprised to also receive a timing chip as the race website had said timing devices would not be issued for the race. At least this meant there wouldn't be the usual stampede of runners trying to get across the start line as soon as possible. Before the race started, we managed to catch up with several friends and I must admit I had a pang of jealousy when one said she had dropped down from the 10k to the 5k. I quickly wiped that thought away and just focused on my aim to get round the course, hoping to run it all the way.
There was a race warm up but I didn’t take part in this (previous experience of twinging something) so I just made my way to the start and chatted with some runners next to me. Before I knew it the race had started and I soon realised I was too far up the pack, with those doing the warm up having simply joined at the back rather than mixing with those already congregated. I wasn't really sure of my race pace so started the race just running as to how I felt. However, in hindsight this was a bit of a mistake as I was pulled along by the runners beside me.
About 2k in, I was not very impressed to see a group of runners being held by marshals at a road crossing telling them to wait for the traffic to pass. In my view, if you have a race with timing chips, then the marshals should be stopping the traffic. Thankfully as I approached the group were told they could cross the road but it did cause a bit of a bottleneck with all the runners merging back on to the trail paths.
By the time I reached 3k I was physically knackered and had had enough, I was roasting hot and my breathing was really laboured, I just couldn't get into any sort of rhythm. I did actually stop and consider turning around with the intention of heading home. However, thinking back to my marshalling duties at the John Muir Ultra the weekend before I gave myself a severe talking to, surely if those guys got round a 31 mile course then I could complete a 10k. I decided to adopt a jog/walk strategy for the rest of the race and from then on in I relaxed and enjoyed myself just taking in the route and surroundings. It was still tough but I was playing mind games, telling myself I was only allowed to walk after having ran for three minutes - sometimes I managed more but there were also times I managed less.
About half way through the race, there was a water station. I was a bit disappointed to see that there was a marshal standing a bit further away from the station minding their own business while the runners had to pick up cups and fill them from a water container for themselves. What was even more disappointing was the cup that I took from the middle of a pile was full of muck and I had to rinse it before having a drink. I then encountered the second road crossing and this time I was stopped by the marshal when I attempted to cross the road as there was a car coming in the distance. I did stop as I didn't think it was fair to put the marshal in a difficult situation but I did have a bit of a moan that it was ridiculous being made to stop - particularly when I knew I could have been across the road. Sorry marshal!
From then on in it was walk/jog to get round the course and even the amazing support crew I had near the finish line chanting my name couldn't make me smile. I think we can safely say it was not one of my better runs!
One of the few highlights of the day was meeting Margaret, a fellow fitnaturally plan follower, while we were running. Although it did take me a while to work out why this runner was giving me strange sideways glances, I think it was after the third look that we finally recognised each other. The encounter did manage to amuse me during the remainder of the race.
So overall not a good day at the office, for me it was a bad run and an un-enjoyable race experience. I have no issues with local fun run events and often enjoy these more but I think if races are giving out timing devices, then they should ensure runners are provided with the opportunity to run the course without interruption. For me, there is no point in providing timing devices but then making runners stop during the race.
Will I run it again next year? Perhaps, now that I know what is involved. The one big selling point of this race is the edible biscuit medal, my motivation for finishing the race: