Thursday, 16 April 2015

Race Report - (Half) Kilomathon Scotland 2015

Blast. Race reports are more or less the one thing I can normally pull together with relative competence and now this one’s three weeks late. Cutting edge blogging going on here. What a time to be alive.

Anyway, Kilomathon Scotland. If the word ‘Kilomathon’ is flying over your head like a furious buzzard, then allow me to try to unpick what’s going on here. In 2010 GSi Events invented a new race distance – which they swiftly dubbed ‘the perfect race distance’ – of 26.2km, ie the same number of kilometres as a marathon is in miles. The idea is a step-up from a half marathon towards a marathon, I guess. I ran the first two of them, one between Nottingham and Derby (in 2:03) and the other a circular route over the Forth Road Bridge and back from Ingliston (2:05 and my god those hills). It was a pretty good distance. Not sure if it was perfect, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Since then I’ve been dimly aware that the 26.2km distance had been binned, and that a Kilomathon was now considered 13.1km, which I might have better called a half kilomathon. Interestingly, this distance is ALSO branded as ‘the perfect race distance’. Whatever.

A pal who once beat me in a terrible game of tennis asked if I was up for this event – his first ‘proper’ race – and with nothing else planned I signed myself up. What I hadn’t twigged was the 8.30am start time. In Leith. On the day the clocks go forward. Cripes.

Yes, Leith. It’s really quite nice these days, and the kilomathon route intelligently leaves from Ocean Terminal shopping centre (handy pre-race infrastructure – ie proper loos) and winds its way through a network of high-quality footpaths laid out on a former railway line. It snakes its way south west on a 99% traffic-free course  and finishes on the pitch at Murrayfield Stadium, home of endless disappointment in international rugby (I should know, I have a season ticket) but a magnificent stadium nonetheless.

James and I exchanged chilly pre-race banter on a desolate stretch of access road and before long we were away, looping behind the shopping centre past the Royal Yacht Britannia. James was looking for 75 minutes and I was hoping for 65. It didn’t go to plan for either of us. At all.

Right away I got a wiggle on. I was working hard to run the tangents wherever possible and the cold damp air on my flimsy running vest meant I was in no mood for hanging about. I shot off way too fast, but much like the time we didn’t even BQ when there were four of us, I somehow found a way to hang on to that pace and ran more or less perfect splits all morning.

I had examined the course map ahead of time, but hadn’t fully appreciated just how windy some of the loops were, at times clumsily added to make up the distance rather than to enhance the experience. I was absolutely flying by 3km but frustrated to be directed around Victoria Park on a series of tight turns which really limited my rhythm. I could tell others were annoyed too. Luckily before too long it was back on the footpath proper and steaming towards Murrayfield, and there was really only one random bit of loopy route to contend with from there...

As the kilomathon starts at sea level, the route is a gentle climb pretty much all the way and it’s easy to be caught out in those places where it’s more noticeable. I was working hard to keep my pace on track and the rise in profile did make this challenging. The Crew Chief popped up at a convenient cheering point (one of perhaps 40 spectators on the entire course – a slightly out of the way footpath at 8.45am on a Sunday is not prime cheering territory) and I cheerfully told her that I was dying but would see her at the finish. Luckily I was only half right.

I’m not good at pacing kilometres and I was even more confused as my watch was showing pace and distance in miles and the route markers were interspersed with those for the 6.55km quarter-kilomathon. I’m not joking. In fact there was even a 2.62km event for kids. I passed the start for the quarter kilomathoners around 6 or 7km, who were penned up waiting for, perhaps, a gap in the kilomathon traffic and wondered if I could keep them at bay or if the speedier ones might catch me. So anyway – there were way too many numbered signs, my own confusing watch readout and a sleepy, GMT/BST confused brain, which taken together meant that by 9km I decided to forget about digits and just put the hammer down.

We peeled off the footpath near Murrayfield and barrelled – finally - downhill towards the stadium, skirting Roseburn park. I rounded what I thought was the final corner to see a tunnel leading straight onto the pitch and prepared a last-gasp straight-line sprint. Sadly the kilomathon route instead peeled away to the left as we did a pointless and annoying fingerloop of the stadium’s car park before finally taking a few tight turns to get into that same tunnel.

Just as I stepped onto the hallowed turf – imagining just how bad next year’s 6 Nations run would have to be in order for me to get a call up –  two men flew past me at a full-on sprint. Remember that I’m running at about 7:15/mile here and that these guys blew me away from absolutely nowhere, all elbows and knees. As I crossed the finish line I got mixed up with a load of marshalls trying to hand things to these speedsters – in fact they were the first three finishers of the quarter-kilomathon, and their crazy pace was due to the fact that they got to do the arrow-straight finish into the stadium. I was a tiny bit miffed at having been jostled about by these mere quarter kilomathoners, as if that’s even a thing, but I suppose fair play to them.

Check out this dodgy GoPro video I shot at the finish:

Just as in 2010 the organisers distributed medals that just said ‘Kilomathon’ and showed the event logo – no date, no distance, no location. Clearly they’re reused at multiple events, but whatever. The finish line setup was slick and well organised, felt like a fun stadium finish and best of all was done and dusted well before 10 am.

At the finish, with a Wallace cheeser
I clocked 58:03 (half 24:25 – negative split!), seven minutes faster than I had guessed when I registered and good enough for 94th overall out of 1,398 finishers. My splits are pretty tasty, too.

James finished almost exactly ten minutes behind me in 68:26. He had also beaten his estimated time by seven minutes. He went for the classic medal-biting pose:

For £20, this is a solid event. But next year I think I’ll stay in bed.

Happy running


2015 to date: miles run - 320.89, parkruns - 3, races - 2