I found this really tough! Was feeling relatively confident, as I had heard that though a bit hilly, it wasn't as bad as the Stonehaven half which I ran three weeks ago, but I actually found it worse. Maybe because it was hot, and I don't function well in the heat... Also, we were running late as usual (not my fault!) and I was panicking most of the way to Ballater about not getting there on time, especially as it was a pick-up-your-number-on-the-day type race. We made it with 15 minutes to spare, in the end, which gave me just enough time to get and attach my race number and make a much-needed loo visit.
The race started well enough, running through Ballater and out on to the country roads, with the first couple of miles being flattish - managed these in an easy 9:34 and 9:44. There was a longish uphill section between miles 2 and 3 (10:48), and then a steep uphill in the 5th mile (a disgraceful 11:44, which did involve some walking). I found the hills really hard going, and struggled to keep control of my breathing. Found that I was being overtaken on the uphill sections and then overtaking the same people on the flat and downhills - this happened repeatedly with the same people throughout the race - clearly I need to do more hill work!
That was the worst of the hills over with although there was another uphill part around mile 8 (followed by a nice downhill section), but I was still struggling to pace myself and feeling really tired. The change of terrain to off-road for much of the second half of the race, while it made a change, did slow me down too but I had managed to make some ground and even overtake a few people on the downhill and just about managed to maintain my position! The shoogly bridge (I think at about mile 7, though it's a bit of a blur now) was an interesting touch although I could have done without the steps up to it by that point! The last mile was along a very narrow path surrounded by long grass, before emerging back into the playing field where the race began and running a lap of that before thankfully passing the finishing line.
I finished in 1:43:47, which I was a bit disappointed with as this represents an average pace of 10:24 which is the slowest I've been for ages and considerably slower than my (also hilly) recent half marathon pace! For whatever reason I never seemed to manage to get into a proper rhythm today and walking on the hills played havoc with my time. (Husband later said "I thought you would struggle, because you don't do well in the heat" which is true enough, although it wasn't really hot enough for this to be a very convincing excuse!)
However it was a nice scenic race with plenty of variety, even if the course could do with a good ironing before next year. The encouragement from the marshals was really appreciated - another water station might have been good, though! The yummy chocolate in the goody bag was also much appreciated by my daughter who scoffed half of it in the car on the way back.
Splits: 9:34 9:45 10:49 10:00 11:45 9:51 10:53 11:07 9:25 10:41
Note to self: get better at hills. (I thought I'd done a fair bit of hill training, but it clearly wasn't enough...)