Position: 1st place (288 finishers)
This was my 7th time running the Kirkintilloch 12.5k, and 6th in a row. It’s a race I really really really enjoy. Not just because I get to catch up with a bunch of running mates everytime I do it, but also, it is a perfect test of how the winter training has been going. It’s an unforgiving brute of a race. The short distance is offset with the incessant, but never too long, hills that feature in the race. The Kirkintilloch Olympians, the club who organise this race, love their “12 hills in 12.5k” strapline. And rightly so. This is not a flat fast race, it is a test; a good test at that.
This year I came into the race with a solid winter of training behind me. It has been unbroken and great quality, with the weather proving an inconvenience rather than a stopper. This is of course further buoyed by the fact I have been selected to run for Scotland in the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k in March, and as you can probably imagine, is my primary focus right now.
All of which meant that I wasn’t going into this race expecting much. Paul Giblin has me working to a gloriously tight and balanced schedule. There was no room to taper for this race, and I went into the day looking at it as a long run day with a tempo session in the middle. I ran to the start line, around 10k, and would repeat with a run home after the race in order to get some good miles in. On my run over I was lucky enough to see the first and last 3k of the race and had a feel for underfoot conditions.
A Bon Jovi covers band who are very bad at punnery might have called it ‘Slippery When Icy…’ It had snowed heavily on Saturday and then was as low as -5 overnight, giving the road that kind of sheen that sends fear into the heart of any road runner.
It was going to be an interesting race, with the conditions a significant factor. I even contemplated just jogging the route if it was bad, with the ACP in mind after all. As it was, I knew the course was thawing and that a gritter had been out to do its business. I’d give it a go.
I lined up in the 2nd row and when the whistle went for the start I headed out at a comfortable pace. I was surprised to get to the foot of the first of those 12 hills in the lead group. By the time we climbed the hill I felt I was running really comfortably and I was in a lead pack of 4. The first downhill was into the sun, and the black ice was shouting at me with warnings ahoy. Given I had been on the first 3k earlier and had a feel for conditions, I resolved to see how I was placed after these KMs before deciding whether I could push on and go for a win. Not a position I expected to be in, but one I would have a go at if the opportunity was going to present itself.
At 3k I was feeling really good and on the course there are probably just 4 tough hills, the first is just after 3k. I felt I was stronger than the guys around me on these so I pushed up the hill and opened a handy wee gap. I kept the pace up for a couple of KMs over this undulating section of the course, around the back of Waterside and at 7k I was pretty much clear and could relax and run in from there.
There’s no real story of contention, or angst here. Once I knew I had a chance of taking this race down, I went for it, opened a gap and ran it from the front. It was as simple as that.
I really didn’t expect to have a chance to win this. It is a bit short for me. And I always see this as a runner’s race, a race in which guys much stronger on short road races than me come to the fore. Why else would I volunteer to Paul to make it a long run day with the race in the middle!
After the race I even looked at past winning times to see how I would have fared in previous years. I was amazed at the results. My time in 2016 would never have won another edition of the race but would have been good enough to finish 2nd a few times and never outside of the top 5.
The truth of
the matter is I was really pleased with how I ran given the context of both the underfoot conditions and where I am in my training towards the Anglo Celtic Plate. It is really nice to let loose from time to time, hell, given I do about 80-90% of my miles in the morning darkness before 7am, it’s bloody nice just to see daylight for a change.
There you have it, an unexpected win in one of my favourite races. It was another fantastic event by the Olympians and as always, the most pleasing thing was to see some of my good mates at the race, before, during and after.