At the weekend, I completed my first official 10K running event, at the Castle of Mey here in Caithness. I had decided to sign up to the event only a week before, in an eleventh-hour decision after our regular Saturday morning Parkrun stint. I had a feeling I might regret not entering, having convinced myself of my ability to run a full 10K on an outing just a week or so earlier. Life has also taught me that health and energy aren’t static, having gone through a long period of near-constant fatigue after a bout of pneumonia a couple of years ago. If getting to the age of 42 has taught me anything, it’s that old adage about seizing the day and making the most of every moment. To heck with any worries about waiting until I could make an impressive time or until the conditions were absolutely perfect.
Because perfect always has a way of evading us, doesn’t it?
Carpe Diem all the way.
I use the term ‘training’ loosely because apart from a couple of extra runs, I didn’t follow any particular training regime. I probably have a reasonable level of general fitness, thanks to long afternoon walks with my Vizsla, and a weekday routine of morning yoga whenever I can fit it in. Starting Parkrun 8 months or so ago – which we fell into almost by accident (you can read about that here) – has definitely helped with my stamina and it was certainly the trigger to try to push myself a bit further. In the week before the race, I did one more 10K run – just to convince myself I hadn’t imagined my ability to do it – and then left four clear no-running days, where I stuck to my normal routine of dog-walking, eating my body weight in hummus, and throwing in a few extra strength training yoga DVDs.
Finally (well, quite quickly actually), the day of the race rolled around – and so did the rain clouds. The weather for the event was less Spring, more depths of Winter, with cold and pouring rain that had us shivering in the post-registration wait until the start. If I had any regrets about entering, they surfaced in that intervening hour or so – mostly due to my feeling guilty about leaving my waterproof-clad family to brave the elements while spectating. But I needn’t have worried – they were upbeat and supportive; my eldest entering the kids’ Mey Mile event, and all of them enjoying the spoils of the nearby café in the hour or so that I was gone.
And once the race started – after a minor panic over finding the 65-minute pace runner I planned to stick to à la limpet – my anxieties suddenly lifted. I was buoyed along by the crowd (and the sound of bagpipes), as we made our way along the wooded drive leading to the nearby coastal path. The route was marked with signs heralding our arrival at 1km, 2km and so on – small milestones which passed more quickly than I expected. Along the way, we were buoyed further by local residents waving out of doorways, kids from youth groups handing out water, Army Cadets and members of the local Constabulary – and impromptu high-fives from other runners at the short out-and-back section roughly half way round the route.
There was plenty of chat and encouragement from Gavin (the coveted ’65’ man) along the way too, and I found myself apologising for not being able to join in due to my tendency for getting stitches. No stitch appeared though – I’d tried a friendly recommendation of eating a banana an hour before running (thankyou Dean), and was happily pain-free throughout the whole event.
The final stretch of the race, on the way back into Mey, was the part I’d been most worried about beforehand. I’d read a few blogs suggesting the gradual incline of 2-3km leading back to the castle could be tough, and with my limited experience of running hills, I wasn’t sure how my not-as-young-as-they-once-were legs would fare. But I needn’t have worried – I was feeling good, and at this stage actually started to pick up my pace a little. When we reached the long drive heading down to the castle, I decided I was going to just belt it (in as much as a 42 year old woman with varying levels of stamina and energy can belt anything, to be fair).
As I made the final bends through the trees to the sounds of bagpipes I had a huge lump in my throat – and a heart filled with pride and happiness.
I had done it – crossing the line in a time of 1:04:28, feeling wet, cold and exhilarated.
But mostly, I was just feeling grateful.
I had seized the day.
And discovered I love running in the rain.
Well done to everyone who took part in this year’s Castle of Mey 10K and Mey Mile, and a big thankyou to every volunteer, organiser, and those who offered encouragement along the way.