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Nicola's 500 Mile Challenge for the Borders

The Balfron 10K: the hilliest 10K ever!!!

April update: the hills are alive…

On Sunday 27th April 2014, I joined with some friends to run the Mulberry Bush Montessori Balfron 10K and add another 6 miles to the total. Our journey into the wilds of the Campsies took us by car over a rather large hill (I suspect it was actually a mountain) with a very twisty turny road that ran along the edge of some extremely disturbing cliffs. I really hate heights and unfortunately seemed to be on the same side as the drops at all times. It got to the stage where I actually had to close my eyes. I was relieved when we arrived in Balfron but disturbed when my friend took off his jumper to reveal his running outfit which was a vest and short running shorts. To all intents and purposes, it looked as though he was galivanting around in his undies! Horror replaced horror. I was glad that he is a “real” runner and would thus not be running with me! (You know I’m just kidding, Jim!).

I was also dismayed to find that I had pressed myself into the seat in the car so hard that I had melted my emergency Freddo that I had stashed in the back pocket of my running leggings. Not one to waste 20p, I opted against throwing Freddo in the bin. Instead, I took him for a 6 mile run then ate him later in the day once he had re-set. I have to say that by that point, he didn’t look much like a frog. Well, he did resemble a frog that had had a run in with a tractor. Regardless of his lack of frog formation,I have to say that he did fulfil his purpose as a tasty snack.

My trials in reaching the start line did not end there. Balfron is a village and it was a very busy village by the time we reached it. Finding somewhere to park proved difficult. We eventually found a parking space around 5 minutes from the start line. Unfortunately the whole five minutes were uphill and 3 of those were up an incredibly steep hill. I’ve never walked up a gradient like it. I was exhausted after 25 metres. I realised that this did not bode well for my chances of turning out a personal best in the race to follow. My sense of foreboding as to performance level was augmented at the start line by the realisation that it was a relatively small field of around 600 runners. Oh dear. Small field normally equals last place for me. A kindly soul at the start line who had previous experience of the course advised me to remember that, “what you run down on the way out, you run up on the way back.” Oh dear indeed. With that thought ringing in my ears, I crossed the start line.

It rapidly became apparent that there would be no personal best for me that day when I struggled to keep up with everyone on the (downhill) way out. The joy of an out and back course means that all of the runners who have only a couple of miles left to go start running past you before you have even passed the half way point. To be fair, they were all very kind and encouraging but there were parts when I felt like expiring and would cheerfully have jumped behind a hedge to hide my puce face. I seriously considered it when Jim ran past me in his vest and pant shorts and waved. It was awesome to see my friends and to cheer them on – they were doing extremely well – and I was thrilled to reach the half way point, which was marked by a gentleman playing the bagpipes. I set off on the homeward leg feeling cheerful and enjoying the solitude of last place. I could see one runner in the distance but I knew that there was no way I could catch her. I resigned myself to being last and got on with hauling myself back up the hills I had made such a meal of running down.

I remained convinced that I had come last until later in the day when I was despatching my reconstituted Freddo and received the good news in a text message from Jim that I had in fact finished second last. I thought of a gentleman I had seen on the route as I made my way back. He was walking and I had assumed that he was finished and making his way home. I realised then that he was taking part and had come last and my heart swelled at the thought of his effort. That’s what I love about 10k races: the distance is accessible and runners of all abilities are welcome. The gentleman who had won the race had also taken a moment as he had passed me to give me a few words of encouragement. That meant a lot. He was in the process of winning a race and yet still took a moment to encourage a woeful shuffler. I appreciated that.

After the race, we enjoyed a lovely barbecue at Jim and Linda’s house. They were excellent hosts and the food was awesome. All in all, it was an awesome day. The scenery was absolutely stunning during the race, my friends did really well, I didn’t come last, I got a medal and a t-shirt (very generous!) and there was shortbread in my goodie bag. And I put another six miles in the bag for Border Terrier Welfare. Awesome.

On now to May and my favourite event of the running calendar, the Troon Tortoise 10K.


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