Nearly 2,000 runners took place in the 2010 Balmoral 10k - possibly excluding those who may have been still trudging from the car park (or to be more precise, distant field) when the race kicked off at 2.30pm. (Unusually, it was on a Saturday afternoon, the culmination of a day's races which included primary and secondary school events, a 5k and a wheelchair race, all in the grounds of Balmoral Castle.) That car park, also known as distant field, seemed like miles away (probably because it was), and particularly as we were, inevitably, pushed for time thanks to a husband who is congenitally incapable of leaving the house without endless procrastination. Having to carry daughter for much of the way - thanks to a husband with a recent hernia operation - also didn't help me to arrive at the starting line bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. A last minute dash to the main area, an anxious queue for the Portaloos, and miraculously, I managed to be there on time - just.
Pre-race information had advised lining up for the start according to predicted finishing time, but I could barely see the markers, let alone squeeze through the crowds of runners to position myself appropriately. I think I finished up somewhere between the 50 and 55 minute markers, which seemed wildly over-optimistic, and indeed people poured past me for the first few minutes of the race (well, after the 2-3 minutes very slow shuffling to actually reach the start line).
The first few kilometres were uneventful enough. Some people overtook me. I overtook some (different) people. It drizzled a bit, but not much.The thought of The Hill loomed large in, I suspect, most people's minds and soon enough a sign proclaiming "Beware - Hill Ahead!" heralded its onset. In retrospect, I felt the sign could have been more positively phrased - "Hill Ahead - keep going!" or "Hill Ahead - you can beat it!" might have sent out a more encouraging message, since as it was, the mere sight of the alarming sign apparently caused some people to groan, admit defeat and start walking before the hill had even begun. I was determined not to be beaten, and I kept running, overtaking various walkers... for a couple of minutes and then I too admitted defeat and slowed to a walk. That hill was a beast. Everybody was walking. Even the few people I saw running weren't actually going significantly faster than the walkers. I did manage to keep up a reasonable walking pace and even broke into an occasional run, but there was something hugely demoralising about the sight of The Hill stretching on apparently endlessly (only 1.2k of it, apparently, but it felt more like 5 miles). Oh, and did I mention the mud? There was mud. At one stage it seemed like every step I took, I was actually sliding backwards again thanks to the mud.
Finally reaching the top (no royals, but there were pipers! Which was nice), I'd been expecting a pleasant long descent, but it didn't feel quite as delightful as I'd anticipated, as there were still flat and even short uphill stretches - well, that's what it felt like - before the final descent into Balmoral, with the castle again in view. By 5 miles, I felt completely exhausted. Bizarre how this keeps happening to me in races, when I know full well I can run further, faster, in training - maybe it's a psychological thing? Whatever, I was deeply ashamed to find myself walking short stretches of the final section, though invigorated by husband and daughter waving to me about 0.3 miles from the end (apparently daughter had been clapping and waving to all the runners!). Though much of the race was spectator-free, as we neared the end there were little gaggles of watchers clapping and calling encouragement, which was nice (except for the one who said "Come on, you can go faster than that!". Which may have been meant as encouragement, but didn't really help all that much.)
Finally, the finish line was in sight....
... and I have to say, I had no idea there were so many people so close to me, as I was in a little world of my own by then and was quite amazed when someone, probably the woman in the black, put on a spurt and overtook me right at the finish, thus depriving me of the glory of 1475th place (of 1877) overall and 547th woman (of 858).
Time was a deeply disappointing, if unsurprising given my general crapness, Personal Worst of 1:05:40 (chip time - overall finish time allowing for the shuffle to the start line was 1:08:09, but we'll draw a veil over that). 175th in the FV category - to put that in perspective, the fastest in the category was 40:41, and the slowest 1:44:35! So I guess I can comfort myself that I was closer to the fastest than the slowest.
Garmin info here....
Balmoral 10k by sheri3004 at Garmin Connect - Details
But hell, it was a good day out, a great race and I'll be back next year for another crack at that hill! Oh, and the bacon rolls in the cafe afterwards were a stroke of genius...