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Ann said: I’ve not done Devilla Forest before as it’s always late February in between my boy’s birthdays and I didn’t want it to clash with party plans, but the boys are beyond parties these days and don’t care if I’m around or not so I signed up for the 15k.
I’m pretty sure I checked out the times of previous runners and figured I wouldn’t be totally out of my league, but with it being a trail run and having a practice on Arthur’s Seat the other week I was beginning to get a bit anxious about the 1 hour cut-off at the 7k water stop. Then I saw the photos of JUST how muddy it was going to be and the tension started to rise.
Sharing a car with Mike, Gary and Miguel, I was able to calm my nerves on the journey there. It was an 11 o’clock start and we got there about 10:15. Picking up our race numbers was fine. Waiting in another much longer queue to get race chips was unexpected and annoying as the clock ticked and I knew I needed the loo before heading to the start. Baggage was stored in the the gym next to the changing room and I made it to the start in time.
The race started with a short section of normal road out of the police college grounds before heading into the forest tracks. At the first water feature (water logged rough path through the forest) I caught up with the two in front of me and a gathering of shrieking/sliding runners picking their way through intent on not falling (and not always succeeding). The two in front of me volunteered to let me past when we’d cleared this, but I assured them I was happy to stay just behind them. It meant I didn’t need to think to much about navigation (which was very good actually, lots of painted arrows on road tracks, painted rocks/tree roots and waving markers on temporary posts in areas with nothing solid to mark).
I quite enjoyed the muddy water ‘features’ – it was impossible to run most of them (for a sensible ‘not going to risk falling or spraining an ankle’ type person like me) so you gave up trying to push fast and just experienced it. It took all your concentration as well, so you didn’t have time to think about pace and cut-offs etc. It wasn’t actually the majority of the race that was like that. Most of it was perfectly sane road tracks and paths.
I made it safely to the water stop at 7k within the cut-off time. Glimpsed the 5k runners using the same water stop on their route and was only slightly tempted to switch routes and finish early… I did get to overtake the two women who were taking it easier now we were no longer at risk of missing cut-offs. It had been fairly flattish so far, but now there was a steady incline where you just had to plod on.
There was a long stretch along a loch/reservoir I think that had one of the most impressive water features where you couldn’t really differentiate path from loch. It’s all a bit of a blur now. I remember the bit after the loch where there was a hairpin bend and the route went up hill on grass next to a fence, except that the grass had been churned completely into gloopy mud by the 500 runners before me. This was where my ‘I am a runner and I run’ mantra had to be put aside. ‘I would like to be a runner, but I’ll settle for slip sliding hither and thither in a two steps forwards one step back kind of way’.
I found the last section REALLY tough. I was tired and didn’t really know how much further we had to go. I was on my own now as too far behind the rest of the pack (who I’d heard shrieking their way up that muddy path) and the three behind me were out of earshot now. I think the worst bit mentally was when my app said 15k and I knew there was still some way to go with it not being accurate, was thinking maybe 500-700m to go, turned the corner and saw a 1k to go sign. Aargh!! It didn’t help that I was being overtaken by marshals jogging back after the tail runner had passed them “Not far to go now”. Too bloody cheerful when I was dead on my feet. I could hear cheers at the finish point as the last of the pack ahead of me completed their run, but still couldn’t tell how far that was for me.
Out of the woods and back onto proper road, but it seemed to wiggle back and forth in a tantalising fashion. Finally, finally I saw the glorious Finish flag. Grabbed lucozade and cereal bar. Staggered back to the changing rooms to be congratulated by club pals. I had a shower which was nice in terms of vaguely getting clean. Apparently the water was hot for the fast runners. By the time I got there it was considerably cooler, but it didn’t matter as it was warmer than me (just) and got me CLEAN. My feet then immediately got dirty again as the floor was like a midden. Nice atmosphere with the other runners changing and chatting about their race. All seemed to have enjoyed it.
It was definitely one of those ‘enjoy it more when you’re sat on the sofa with your feet up’ type of races. I’d do it again (preferably in better conditions) and it won’t hold as many fears now I know I’m capable of the cut-off time and have a mental map of the finish stretch so I’m not wishing the finish line in existence before it’s there.
The marshalling/navigation was excellent. Never felt like I was in danger of going off track and the support was very good from people standing in basically the middle of nowhere for more than 2 hours.