I signed up for this race just before Christmas 2017. David, Charlotte, Michael, Ross and Hugh all signed up too, so it was looking like a nice wee BRR outing. By that point I had been training regularly for 2 – 3 months. At the start of October I had found 6 mile runs a horribly long distance, and my main aim then was just to increase my 5k pace to get faster Parkrun times. Over the 2 ½ months since then though I had built up my mileage and long run distance. This included one run at half marathon distance (with Charlotte, Stuart and Sue) and I had managed a 47:04 10k on the treadmill a few days before signing up. My outside 10ks were still around the 53 minute mark, though they were on long steady pace runs with people and I thought I might be able to go slightly faster if racing. I also knew 5 months was a long time in training terms, so I put a predicted finish time of 48 minutes, to motivate me to keep improving. I’d been confident of a PB at Livingston 10k in February and was hoping to go sub 50 by that point, but the (Mostly Not) Running on Ice disaster had left me with my worst 10k time ever and a serious knock in confidence – which was thankfully short-lived after smashing my Livingston 10k time at the Tay Ten (a whole 3.8 miles longer) just 7 weeks later.
By now I was getting used to racing. After Tay Ten I’d had my first (and quite possibly only) experience of winning a race, at RST Crombie 5k, and finished surprisingly high up the rankings for Smokies 10 just the week before BHGE. I was riding high, and felt unstoppable. Now I was worried that the time I’d put down for BHGE was too conservative, and I was going to feel penned in whist trying to overtake the runners in my starting group. I’d run 10k in 44:03 as part of Smokies 10, but that was on a mostly downhill section, and I’m still striving to break 22 minutes at Parkrun, so that didn’t seem achievable. But 45, or at least 46, minutes might be. If only I’d managed to fit in more speed work sessions.
Then David messaged me to ask what my plans were for the race. His PB for 10k is something phenomenal (like, sub 33) so he’s not chasing PBs at this distance any more. He was also still recuperating from Stirling Marathon with one or two persistent niggles, and wasn’t too bothered about going flat out on this race. He asked if I had a target time and would like a pacer. I thought this was extraordinarily generous, and jumped on the offer. I love how some experienced runners generously help out newbies like myself, and I have a lot to thank them for. Basically I was getting offered pacing help from a runner with 30+ years experience, and he was also going to act as an effective windbreak for me if the race, as it often can be, proved to be rather windy. What more could I ask for 😀 I said I couldn’t decide whether to try and go for 45 or 46 minutes. His response was that I was looking really strong just now and easily have 45 minutes in me – in fact, he was pretty sure I could go sub 44. The Footers guys had been 10 seconds per mile too optimistic about my 10 mile race pace though, so I thought it would be best to aim for 45 minutes with the option of pushing the pace in the last few miles to get down to 44-something if I felt I had enough left in the tank.
Race day was an early start – leaving Brechin two hours before the race start time to ensure we wouldn’t be panicking trying to find a parking space, or not getting to the bag drop on time. We arrived in Aberdeen with 75 minutes to spare. I’d packed for all weather eventualities, but the sunscreen was not needed as it was overcast, cold and a bit windy. It even rained for a bit, but that went off well before the race started. So it was ideal racing conditions asides from the wind. David also runs with the St Cyrus Solos, and we found them in the info tent. I also managed to bump into Mandy from Stonehaven at the bag drop. We did a tiny bit of the stage-led warm up (which unfortunately I have no pictures of as I’d already put my bag in) then decided going for a bit of a run would be a more productive use of our time. We joined the 40 – 44 minutes pen, and were quickly joined by Charlotte, then Michael and Ross appeared too. As we were in the second pen, we were off pretty sharpish, and nearly failed to notice we were at the Start line – so Garmin’s were hurriedly started.
I’d originally planned to do the first mile at 7:15 pace then pick up gradually, but Charlotte and David had persuaded me to go out faster as the wind would be behind us on the first half, and we’d be fighting against it in the second half. Charlotte and Michael quickly disappeared into the distance, but David and I stayed steadyish around 7:00 per mile. The first couple of kilometres are through an industrial area near the harbour, and it takes you through Footdee (pronounced Fittie, which seems more appropriate in the current context). There was a bit of undulation but nothing much. The first mile split was 6:57 and the second one was pretty much the same pace. I’d started off wearing a buff though, and already it was feeling too hot. I tried putting it round my neck, but the bobbing was annoying, so David kindly agreed to carry it for me.
Slightly after the 3km point you head onto the Esplanade. At this point there were nice views of the sea, and, as we got further along the Esplanade, some spectators. At one point I was pleased but perplexed when a little girl called out “Keep going Pauline” as I had no idea who she was. I’d forgotten my name had been printed on my race number.
I was still feeling comfortable at 5k, which we passed through in a 5k PB for me of slightly over 21 minutes. It certainly wasn’t conversational pace though, and David and I mostly ran in companionable silence asides from my audible breathing. He was a complete metronome and was clearly finding this pace (pretty much his marathon pace) much more comfortable than I was.
There was a water station shortly after the 5k point and I was glad of the chance to get some liquid to deal with my dry mouth. I only took a few sips before discarding it, but it was worth it for the temporary increase in comfort. Shortly after this we spotted Michael and caught up with him. We then encountered a guy in a cape, who looked far too comfortable in all those layers. I would never want to run in costume. There was another slight climb as we veered off the Esplanade at around the 7k point, then a short downhill section before another corner, but now the wind was against us. David told me to concentrate on my form and try to keep the pace steady. He also acted as something of a windbreak. There are more twists and turns in this section, until you get onto Golf Course Road. At that point I was starting to tire, but decided not to waste time stopping for water at the second water station. Then a killer hill appears in the final kilometre. To be fair, it’s not much of a hill compared to Smokies, or most of the country runs around Brechin. But when you’ve been running faster than your usual 5k pace for 9km and the wind is in your face it’s a bit demoralising. David was trying to keep me at around 7:10 (I’d had a bit of a slump and he was doing his best to keep me going without blowing up) but I’m pretty sure I dropped to 7:30 on the steeper section of the hill, and a couple of younger women overtook me around this point. Thankfully there is a slight downhill, and there was only about 500 metres to go.
I checked my watch when it buzzed 6 miles, and it was 41 – something. Surely I could do .22 of a mile (350 metres) within a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, the Finish line was not in sight as its round yet another corner. You just have to have faith and keep pushing until the corner. It also turned out my weaving in and out of folk and taking corners too wide had added an extra hundred metres or so to my race distance, so I had around 500 metres to go. Once round the corner, with the Finish line mercifully in sight, David told me to sprint to the finish. I did try and did get up to 5:32 per mile pace for a very short stint, but it wasn’t my strongest finish ever. Rather than doing my usual cautious start and negative splits, I’d been persuaded to go all out and didn’t have anything left in the tank. I could not have finished even 2 seconds faster. The clock time was 44:19, but when I stopped my Garmin it was at 43:41. Sub 44 minutes, and at least 11:01 off my previous (2004, untrained) PB.
After recovering my breath and getting my (very pretty) medal and goody bag, I gave David a high five. We quickly found Charlotte and Marie who were waiting to see some of us come in before heading off for a day in Aberdeen. Charlotte, despite having a bad cold, had been the first BRR finished the race, in an impressive 42:17 and one of the top 20 female finishers! She looked pretty happy about it and had every right to. She was also really encouraging about my race though, as was David. I really owe him about a minute of that time. Without him I would have started off more conservatively, and would have slowed down more in that last mile with the hill and fatigue. Having a personal metronome, cheerleader and windbreak is fantastic and it was really appreciated. Ross appeared a couple of minutes later. He’d got a 40 second+ PB and was pretty chuffed with it, especially as he’s just coming back from injury.
It’s hard to say quite how much I enjoyed this race as most of it went by in something of a blur. Sections of the route are very picturesque, others not so much. It also felt more like the few races I did in Glasgow back in the mid-2000s due to the sheer volume of runners, though there was never any issue with congestion. Maybe there would potentially be further back though, so something to bear in mind. The race village was very well organised, there were enough portaloos (though some folk didn’t follow queue etiquette) and the bag drop was very efficient. They were also very quick processing results: within 20 minutes of finishing I had a text message saying my official time was 43:30! A few hours later I checked the 2017 results link to see where I might have come in (I’d explained to my Mum that there was no chance of me getting any awards for this one, and I’d probably be about 700th). I’d noticed on Strava that I’d been 12th or 14th female this year for some of the Strava segments, but much lower for others. And of course not everyone running would be on Strava or have uploaded their run yet. So I wanted to get an estimate of my likely position based on the 2017 results. The link surprisingly took me to the 2018 results. I searched for myself and found I had finished in position 273. Not only that, I was 27th female, and 6th FVet. Charlotte was 19th female. Go Charlotte!
BHGE 10k is a fast and fairly flat route with some nice scenery, some welcome support from spectators, a decent t-shirt and medal and a few other bits and pieces in the goody bag, and it felt worthwhile. It was nice to do a larger race for a change, but on the whole I think I prefer the atmosphere of the smaller ones. If you get energised by being surrounded by a few thousand other runners though, and appreciate the opportunity of a potential PB course, it’s definitely one to try.