Thursday, March 17, 2011

Running Around The World

The year in Edinburgh marked my return to both recreational and competitive running. It had been 5 years since I had raced AT ALL, but once I was back into my stride, I found myself raring to go. The UK has a large and active running community with plenty of race opportunities, and it was a great pleasure for me to take advantage of this whilst we were living in Scotland.

The first race I took part in was a 10 miler at Dundee, Perthshire, in early November 2006. My baby son was still tiny but I had made a strong return to running and managed to clock a time of 74:25, which pleased me no end. The weather was great for running - about 10C/50F and overcast - a typical Scottish day, in fact. If only their summer would have actually had some warm weather, I might have never wanted to come home again.....

Next up was another 10 mile road race, organised by the Lasswade Athletic Club. It took place near Edinburgh but on the other side of the UK winter, in early March 2007. Despite the season officially being spring, it was only 4C/39F at the start - I was freezing.

DH was waiting to take my photo at the finish but I surprised him by taking almost 6 minutes off my Templeton time, finishing in 68:38. DS was also waiting for me, all rugged up but glad to see his running Mama again.

The running season started for real in April. My first half-marathon since my big injury took place on April 1st in Edinburgh: the Forthside Half Marathon. It started near Leith in the northern part of Edinburgh and wound along the Forth of Firth, a picturesque and mercifully flat course.

I was thrilled to finish with a time of 1:27:01, only 90 seconds slower than my last pre-injury half in 2001 - and I won my age group! What a pity my small son was too impatient to allow me to stick around for the presentation........

The next two races were part of the Great Run series - these are held all over the UK and we participated in both the Great Ireland and Great Edinburgh Runs during our year in Scotland.

The Great Ireland Run - on April 15 2007 - was the perfect opportunity to pop over to Dublin for the weekend. I enjoyed the run although it did not start until 1pm, which was the latest I have ever started a race, and meant that it was uncomfortably warm by the finish (only by UK standards, not Australian!) I ran it in 41:04 and managed to come 2nd in my age group, a fact I was unaware of until they sent me my prize a few weeks later: a Nike heart rate monitor. Cool!

The Great Edinburgh Run took place on 6 May 2007 and was a very different experience. I was nervous at the start because I was seeded in a very fast group and I knew that my usual strategy of starting relatively slowly would put me very quickly at the back of the pack. I did not want to feel (or look) like an imposter, so I was feeling both apprehensive and reluctant as I lined up right up the front.

The weather was sunny and the course took in many of the historic sights of Edinburgh, but like the rest of the record number of entrants, I was too busy fighting the monstrous headwind to take much notice of the scenery...... the spectacular sight of the Castle as we rounded the corner onto Princes St.......

.....or the beautiful Palace of Holyroodhouse, where Mary Queen of Scots lived in 1561 and where the current Queen officially resides when she ventures up north.

Still, I ran the windy 10K in 42:17, which to my great surprise was again enough to come 2nd in my age group and become the happy recipient of a Nike watch several weeks later. Awesome!

Somehow, 3 weeks later I was roped into being part of the Hairy Haggis Team Relay at the Edinburgh Marathon - this may have been my husband's doing, actually - and in freezing rain and howling wind (yes, spring in Edinburgh, ha ha) I ran my 9 mile leg in exactly 1 hour.

The full marathon entrants were all running at their marathon pace, so I spent the entire run zig-zagging madly around other runners; as a result my Garmin thought I had run almost half a mile further than the official distance!

In late June 2007 we drove to Glasgow for me to run the East Kilbride half-marathon. Once again, a fairly flat course made for quick times and I finished in 1:27:49. Here I am valiantly holding off a bloke who had been trying to pass me for at least the last 2 miles. Sucker!

In the end I was the third female finisher and won £100. Who knew that running in the UK could be so rewarding?!

We returned to Australia mid-August 2007 and I was happy to be able to make up for my disappointment at missing the City to Surf (yet again) by entering the half-marathon that was a part of the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival in September.

The day of the run dawned bright and clear, but at 6:30am (the official start time) it was pretty darn cold. My Scottish experience had hardened me to such things, though, and for me the running conditions were perfect. Despite self-seeding options at the start, many people ahead of me were none too fast and the start was therefore quite frustrating as I found myself constantly having to side-step and avoid slower runners. Pretty soon though we were heading across the Harbour Bridge and the crowd began to thin out.

As with so many of my overseas races and runs, this half-marathon took in some of the most famous and iconic Sydney landmarks, from the start beneath the Harbour Bridge (which we crossed in the first 2km) to the finish in front of the Opera House.

In a fitting return to the country where my love of running began, I finished the race in 1:27:02 (1:27 appears to be my lucky running number for 2007) and came 3rd in my age group.

It felt wonderful to be home again and back in top running form. I had proven my pessimistic ortho boss wrong and was every bit the competitive runner I thought might never return.

But there was more to life now than just running, and I was about to voluntarily put things on a type of hold again.......a much better type of hold.

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