Monday, 6 December 2010

Race Report - Edinburgh Christmas Run 2010

Here are some things I never do the day before a race: drink alcohol, go for a run of more than 3 miles, or eat spicy food. Here's what I did the day before the Edinburgh Christmas Run: drank mulled wine, went for an 8 mile run up Arthur's Seat, and had fajitas for dinner. Ho hum.

Amazed that the run was going ahead at all given the outrageous weather we've been enduring recently, I wandered over to Inverleith Park yesterday morning in the company of my dedicated support team; Linds (who has been to more of my races than she cares to remember) and Lydia (who was taking a brief break from being the Manchester Evening News's X Factor correspondent).

Feeling somewhat ridiculous in my cheap Santa suit and expensive trainers, I was relieved to eventually come across a small start area with around 150 runners milling around in classic pre-race fashion, with probably half of them Santa. My plan to be the first Santa across the line was going to be challenged today.

Me, costume still intact despite very baggy trousers, ready for the off.
I'll make a confession here: I'd been practising for this race. Not in the sense that I've just been running, which is a given, but I've been running the specific route of the Edinburgh Christmas Run, to familiarise myself with the terrain and corners, hoping to press home my local knowledge in pursuit of a strong placing. So imagine my dismay when the tannoy announces 'Due to the snow we will be using a modified course for the race today. You'll run down there, turn right, follow the perimeter of the park until you get over there, turn right, then a left, loop around the pond, take a right, then straight on...' I lost track of these instructions at this point.

Ready for the off.
So my race plan was out of the window - the only thing to do was race 'blind' and see what happened. After the ubiquitous awkward mass warm-up, we lined up for the start. A mass countdown and a shout of 'GO' over the tannoy signalled the start, and we were off.

That's me, number 205, on an overtaking mission.
I worked my way to the front running pack, matching stride with another Santa and with only one or two other runners staying near us. Being at the front is great, except, of course, with no-one to follow, you've no idea where the course goes. The marshals did a great job of keeping us on track - however - there's a certain irritation in not knowing where exactly you're going, and how far into the race we are. I had no idea how long the modified course was, and there were no distance markers to keep me on track. In fairness, this was a 'fun run', and I suppose I had no right to expect the usual trappings of a race. But I've never thought of running or racing as 'fun'. It's tough, and it's brilliant. But not fun.

Immediately my Santa costume started to fall apart. The 'one-size-fits-all' theory does not extend to men with 29 inch waists and 37 inch chests trying to run sub-7 minute-miles. The ensemble was held together with a rubbish plastic belt, which loosened after just a few hundred yards. When I tried to tighten it on the run it fell apart all together, and then my Santa jacket was only held together by my running number and safety pins. Between the snow and ice underfoot, my disintegrating costume and the extraordinarily low crotch on my Santa trousers, this was no ordinary race.

An extremely fast runner dressed in his lycras and hi-vis broke away from our group and sped off into the lead, with me and the other Santa (a chap around my age) amicably trading places for 2nd and 3rd. Out of nowhere another fast runner, again not in fancy dress, overtook us in a hurry. You can see him about to steam past us in this photo, where you'll also notice that my costume has started to fall apart:

"Stop waving and look behind you, Dave!"
The bloke in blue sprinted off in pursuit of Hi-Vis, and Other Santa and I were in no hurry to pursue. This was now a race for third place, and first Santa. As we headed towards the pond, I put on a little surge and snuck ahead of Other Santa, confident that I could hold on to my placing. The next turn pointed us back in the direction of the start/finish line, and we were nearly there.

I pushed harder, leaning into a fast run for the finish. I looked for Hi-Vis and Bloke-in-Blue on the approach to the finish line, but couldn't see either of them. This was wrong. The leader wasn't more than 50 yards ahead of me when I last saw him, he can't have finished already. Then it dawned on me. "loop around the pond, take a right, then straight on...' I lost track of these instructions at this point. Oh, shit.

The marshal sent me left, away from the finish line. There was another loop to do before the finish, and I'd already started my last-gasp acceleration. I slowed down, and Other Santa capitalised. I could hear him close on my shoulder, and before long he pulled alongside me. Just before the last turn he pulled ahead, and I knew I was beaten. As I rounded the last corner a marshal shouted at me to catch him, so I put on one last, heart-exploding sprint.

The final push.  Note that my jacket has burst open after my running number ripped off.
And where is my beard? But no other competition!
It wasn't enough. I finished as second Santa, and fourth overall. I was genuinely gutted.

But then I realised: this is my best ever finish. Out of over 150 runners, I came fourth. Fourth. Three years ago I could barely run 5k in one go. Yesterday I beat 146 other athletes over the same distance. That's pretty good stuff, I reckon. Yeah, it was 'only' a fun run, and there were only 150 people competing, and it was over mad terrain, that I'd practised on. But whatever. I was happy.

Me and Linds at the finish. A few more racers have made it over the line by now.
A leisurely stroll home (while the rest of the race crossed the finish line) for breakfast and more coffee. And then we were done - by 11.30am we were on our way into town for brunch. I like 5k's.

That's it for races for me until at least the spring now, and I've just a few more miles to go before I reach my year's mileage goal. But more on that at the end of the month. For now I'll just concentrate on keeping moving through the slush...

Happy racing!


P.S. Hello Canada and Israel!

P.P.S Coming soon: guest bloggers! Stay tuned for other voices on irunbecause...

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