Penicuik is fairly close by and an afternoon race, so one you can be leisurely about getting ready for. I picked up Matt, Ellie and Wendy on my way and we arrived with plenty of time to park up, register, use the toilets (no queues!) and natter to the other ERNs taking part.
I didn’t do the race last year, as I was trying out Loch Leven half. It was nice to be back and remember what a well organised race it is. Looked at the route map although I remembered it well enough. Was impressed by just how many marshals were required along the route, with the little excursions around the odd housing estate (good for spectators as the inhabitants come out to shout encouragement and the children to offer sweets) to make up the distance now the out and back to the school is not longer present.
Another trip to the toilets after drinking most of my water bottle – still very little in the way of a queue. We got a brief race briefing whilst still in the school hall, mostly about not using the toilets up by the start as they’re hired by the archery contest taking place on the field and hoards of runners are not appreciated.
And then it was time for the short walk up to the start where we had the obligatory pre-race club photo shoot with almost all wearing our club vests! Some people at this stage were only just finding out by word of mouth that there is a hill involved.
I started close to the back and soon realised that there seemed to be a smaller field than usual and I was actually going to be last runner. In a way this was easier to take than when there’s a couple of people behind me and I worry I’m going to be overtaken. The route starts with a tantalising section mostly downhill before you reach Pormathon hill. And it’s quite a hill. The Strava segment has it as a 5.5% incline – 82m in 1.5km. But it’s just one you have to put your mind to it and keep putting one foot in front of the other without stopping (or dropping back to a walk) until you get to the top, and then you get a long section of gentle undulations where you can relax a bit.
Once I’d reached the top of the hill I asked the tail runner what his name was, since it looked like we’d be keeping each other company the whole way. Yan, he said. Oh, my name’s Ann. No, Yan with a Y… Once we’d got this confusion out the way he said he had a supply of drinks and snacks if I needed anything and he dropped back behind me leaving me to run my own race.
It was warm, but with just enough breeze to keep it from being unpleasant. I could just about see a couple of runners ahead of me and I got into a nice rhythm of running and felt good. Helped by Yan calling out encouragement to me every now and then, and telling any marshals or spectators what a consistent paced runner I was and how well I was doing. I can recommend having your very own personal cheer leader. Gave me a huge buzz. When we passed the water station he said not to worry about discarding my bottle, he’d pick it up.
I knew I wasn’t running as fast as previous years, but this meant I had more left in my legs when it came to the downhill section around 7k. It helped that there was a tail wind helping me along and I could see the next runner in front of me taking it easy and I closed up the gap a bit.
It’s a road race with fast cars going by occasionally, but there’s pavement the whole way so it doesn’t feel unsafe like Alloa does at times. The only bit I didn’t like was the section of downhill pavement that’s breaking up a bit and gravelly, so I concentrated on finding safe placing for my feet and keeping my speed up as much as I could. Then towards the end of the downhill you have a road crossing with police holding up traffic to let you over. Loads of marshals cheering you on and still Yan my personal supporter. I knew there was the last little teaser of an incline as you get back into town and then it was 400m and 200m and I was able to pull a last bit of effort out to do a sprint finish with Yan cheering me on from behind, and my ERN cheer squad shouting out at the end.
Yan got a very sweaty hug as thanks once I’d crossed the finish line. I came in 219th and therefore got the last but one medal (they normally have medals for the first 220 runners, and numbers seemed to be a bit down on previous years). Water, banana and tablet kept me going back to the school hall where the usual impressive spread of sandwiches and cake awaited. A great event and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Photos courtesy of Colin Sheal and Gary Hall