The scene was set in a rugby club in Forfar on a cold, crisp, windy, but sunny, Sunday morning. Runners gathered from near and far to test themselves in the Forfar Multi Terrain Race (13.1 miles.)
This is no straight forward half marathon. The first choice that runners face is what type of footwear to don. Would it be best to wear road shoes, for the fast flat sections, hill shoes for the muddy sections or sit in the middle and go for trail shoes?
The course starts fast and flat around the loch. The ground underfoot is still frozen solid from days of freezing temperatures. Part way round the loch the underfoot conditions change to tarmac paths before leaving the loch to encounter the first of many inclines; this one is on road.
The terrain soon changes to farm track before quickly changing again to another road section. You can see why the choice of footwear is complicated! On the farm track high verges rise above the mud covered track. The track has so many pot holes that were once covered by a layer of ice; that is before the farmer drove his tractor over the trail that morning to change the potholes into miniature lakes with their very own icebergs. Personally, I think he had done this on purpose for his own amusement. The site of hundreds of runners making their way along the track must be some sight with some runners taking the potholes head on, others tip toeing their way around the them and the bold few running gingerly on top of the verges. The route again changes onto a grit covered half made up road before again meeting a “B” class road.
It is at around the six mile mark that you come across the first footpath trail section with its undulating route that provides your feet with a natural cushioning, provided by Mother Nature. After battling your way through field gates you again head along a section of road before The Hill. This hill is so deceitful; it promises the relief of reaching the summit before hitting you square in the guts. A sharp turn right and there it stands in front of you, an ever increasing incline that taunts you as you once again dig deep. As you reach the fast section at the bottom of the hill there is an ice covered section that you just cannot avoid. So its head down, full speed ahead, and may good luck be on your side; fortunately it was for me. From this point it’s back into the farmers’ fields where the soft mud saps the remaining energy you have left in your legs. At this point it’s head down and tuff it out!
At last you hit the industrial park that leads into the trails surrounding the loch, nearly there. At this point the mind is saying, come on ease off, your work for today is done. But as many a runner knows this is probably the most important section of the race, if your passed now by another competitor its 99% assured that you’re not catching them.
The mind turns to technique, run tall, keep your stride pattern long, drive with your arms and whatever you do, do not look behind. You know the finish line is coming up, but before then you must pass the photographer with the zoom lens who tries to capture the pain in your face. You tell yourself relax and smile, but that smile you think you have performed for the picture that is out there for all to see is a grimace!
Finally you cross the finish line, the first thing you do is stop your watch. For those of you that do not run with a Garmin (there are other makes out there), you may not appreciate the wanting inside you to know your exact distance and exact time at that very moment, the feeling is all consuming. Finally having satisfied your need for the stats you complete the process of bonding with other runners who have just experienced the Forfar Multi Terrain half-marathon. You shake each other’s hands and congratulate them on their achievement as they also congratulate you. It’s at this point that your running for the day is over; that’s until a Mr Gibson steps in, time for a cool down, and off you go for another two and a bit miles around the loch.
Having run this race for the first time I can see why it sells out so quickly. There is a warm welcome with an interesting and challenging course… but I think the main attraction was the after race spread, which I can confirm, is second to none. A big thank you has to go out to the Forfar Road Runners for a great day!!