I thought that this 10k was well placed ahead of the Edinburgh Half and as my training had gone to pot in the past few weeks, I hoped that it could go some way to helping me feel more confident about that race again. Knowing it was going to be hilly and that sub 1 hour 10k splits were good for the Half last year, I set myself the target of a sub 60min finish.
I gave Andrew and Elly a lift and Elly popped out to register while I parked. It was busy but there were still some spaces nearby and the registration area looked well organised, with the High School changing rooms and toilets available nearby. The ERN runners assembled and shared advice about attaching numbers to vests. The start was just across the road, a gentle jog away.
The route begins in the town, then loops south of Penicuik before returning back to the start again. The uphill start I had been tipped off about and I had learned that many people walk it. I also knew that there was another hill later on that catches people out, so the plan I had was to manage that first hill as best I could and let myself walk if needs be. The heat was worrying as there was little air movement, so needed to be factored in too in terms of pace. However I carried no water and in T-shirt-vest combo was overdressed and caught the sun, so sunscreen would have been sensible too.
I was confident about the downhill parts in the second half, but that was it. I placed myself at the rear so as to not overdo it early on and gauged how I was doing by keeping Elly, Keith and Gary in sight as much as I could. That first hill was where I began to lose them.
It begins steeply, then turns a sharp corner and you can see it stretching away for the best part of 2k, so I walked/ ran it. I was still able to keep the others in sight but only because we were now high up and the landscape opened up. There was little shade and I was beginning to feel the heat. I couldn’t recall if there was a water station or not and regretted not bringing any, so decided to keep things steady and make things easier by keeping to the shade, making the downhill parts work for me as they occurred and to run on the road rather than the loose gravel path which was uneven.
At one point I reckoned I was on the tricky second hill, but someone assured me this wasn’t true. Damn. By the time we reached the water station, I had made up ground on Keith, but he was soon away again as he carried water and I stopped to drink as I reckoned I needed every drop. At this point we were high up and off in the distance I could see the long descent and a straggly line of runners making it up that tricky hill I was worried about.
The descent was on the busy Peebles road but luckily there was enough of a view to run on the road and get back on the path in good time for cars and lorries. I opened my stride, followed gravity and started to make up ground again. At one point I had to do a spurt to ensure passing others before traffic approached and found I had a bit more in me than I thought. I also passed Keith about this time and as he is reliably faster than me wondered whether if I had now overdone it with so much left to go. However, I managed to keep it going and then considered the huge gap ahead of me and whether I could close it at all.
I saw that tricky hill rise in front of me but have no memory of it other than to keep on as much as I could as the next runners began to come into range. At this point the heat was getting to me and my skin began to feel prickly. I was reminded of when I got heat stroke in Budapest (another story) and tried to recall whether it felt like this, but couldn’t remember. I knew I had put on a sustained burst and had to keep an eye on how I felt. (I heard later that somebody did collapse during the race).
Somehow though, as we approached Penicuik again I had closed that gap, overtaken a couple more people and joined a bunch. But as we rounded a corner for the last hill we lost any cooling breeze and I had to walk again for a stretch briefly. When I got going again I was surprised to find myself amongst others I had last seen 5k ago and was able to overtake them as space opened up. I didn’t think I had enough for a usual late burst and settled for sitting by someone’s shoulder. As we entered the playing field there was further room and I could see Elly approaching the line up ahead, so used what I could to get past those near me and hoped that nobody else was going to do the same.
The others were waiting near the finish but is was a while before I could speak to anybody as I had really no energy left at all and needed water too. Water, bananas and tablet were all there at the finish and all good. The cake afterwards lived up to its legendary status.
I made my sub-60 minute target, so was pleased. The last three kilometers before hitting Penicuick again were all Parkrun-type pace and although they were downhill it was reassuring to know that was possible.
A highly recommended race. Very scenic — which I did manage to notice — but probably not one for a PB. In wind or rain I can imagine it being a different type of experience.
Photos courtesy of Gary Hall, Gordon Turnbull and Bob Marshall
Video courtesy of MrTreelicious