As I wrote here, I recently traveled to Rannoch, in the Scottish Highlands, for a 1/2 marathon. This was my second 1/2 marathon, and differed in many ways from my first, which I did in the hills of Santa Cruz and wrote about here. For one thing, I didn't train at all for this run. I signed up on a whim, five days before the race, and hadn't gone running at all in the past month except for one hour long jog on Arthur's Seat and running in soccer practice. The last 1/2 marathon I did, and most other runs I've done for fun or competition, have been on dirt tracks with lots of hills, both up and down. I don't usually like running on concrete or on sustained flat stretches, and this run was 13.1 miles of flat road going around Loch Rannoch. I figured I can't just say I don't like road races if I've never done one, so I signed up for this race as kind of an experiment. I finished my other 1/2 marathon in a little over 2 hours, and it was quite hilly (a little over 2,000 feet of elevation) so I figured with no training I could do this one in under 2 hours. That was my goal.
As I have found with the other organized runs I've done, the other runners are extremely friendly. The running community is a really good one, with everyone supporting each other no matter the distance or speed. We all know that everyone goes their own speed, some to win, some to finish, and everyone accepts that. It's great. I chatted with other runners before the run, and when the time came we all got into a van to drive to the start.
The full marathon going on at the same time went around the loch completely, while the 1/2 marathon was up one side of it. A bus drove the 45 runners doing the 1/2 to the far end of the loch and then drove back up the road 13.1 miles to the start. This drive was remarkably well organized - the three smalls shuttles were all on time and the run started with no problem - but the drivers all tended to speed down the small roads, which made me, and some of the other runners, a little carsick. Not the best way to start a race, but the freezing air outside soon had us refreshed and ready to go.
The run was put on by Run Nation, and it was a well organized and well supported event with lots of volunteers and race staff working to pull it off. One thing I really liked about this race which I haven't seen before is that every mile was marked. This made it very easy to control my speed and pace (especially since my GPS watch didn't work for some reason - not enough service maybe) and also, towards the end, I could make the next mile marker my short term goal. There was water available every three miles, and more water and sports drinks and granola bars at the finish.
I started out at a decent pace, probably between 7-8 minute miles, but after a while the pavement started to take it's toll on my knees and hips. For some reason, the constant motion of running straight ahead on flat ground, without any hills to change up the way I move, gets me sore pretty fast, and so at about 6 miles I started skipping a bit and doing some occasional dynamic exercises, ones we use for soccer warm ups, down the road. I must have looked crazy, but it helped get rid of stiffness. It also slowed my pace down. I finished barely within my goal in 1 hour 56 minutes, at an 8-9 minute mile pace. Not too bad, and I was happy overall with the run. The next day I was much more sore than I have been from any other run, mostly in my knees and hips, and I put it down to the flat, hard ground. I did some yoga the day after which helped a lot, and by two days post run I was back to normal. I think that this was my first and last road race, and it was a good one! After the run, I went to the only cafe in town for a warm bacon and egg roll - exactly what I needed :)