Some experiences leave their mark on you, others simply come and go and the memory bleeds away almost as soon as it’s formed.
Forfar half marathon, which happens in the grey and winter wraith time of early February, is one of the former. It’s a multi-terrain affair, with a circular route that takes runners around Forfar Loch on gravel tracks, a short hop through a housing estate or two, invites you along rutted, puddle strewn farm tracks, along rights of way that cut through landfill sites and old quarries and, when you're especially knackered and late in the proceedings, up 500ft’s worth of wooded track (to yon big f^*k-off hill) before plunging back down through another set of tracks. I don’t profess to know Forfar very well; the last time we were there was after the Glen Clova Half Marathon and that was a good few years ago. From memory, we were locked out of the hotel after the ceilidh up in the Glen, and it took 20 minutes to stir the night porter (or whoever it was that eventually opened the doors).
We had spent the Saturday night in Broughty Ferry and dined at Forgans and very nice it was too. Sunday saw it teaming with rain as we drove up the deserted A90 to Forfar catching glimpses through the lichen clad trees of the snow on the Grampians. Arriving in good time, me, Mrs Mac and the young pretender sat in the car quaffing the vestiges of the McDonald’s Americanos while trying to puff clouds of hot vapour out the window into a scene from Fargo.
The rugby club car park was soon full with 200 or so runners. The dilemma was what to wear on our feet. We asked a few buddies and watched to see who was wearing what, but there seemed no obvious choice. I stood at the back of the car, stroking my chin, pondering, staring into the boot where a pair of Salomon Speedcross lay untidily together with 2 pairs of old road shoes and a pair of newish Hokas that have never really seen action. The youngster plumped for the Salomons and I was inclined at 10:50 to concur. Studs it was. We reasoned that if time was to be lost it would be off-road.
We set off at eleven and I settled in to a seven minute mile pace with the youngster alongside. She has the same cadence and stride length which is a bit spooky. We metronomed our way past 20 or 30 runners who had started too eagerly, getting up to 6:40/min mile-ing for the early part of the race. There was a heavy sleet shower in the first mile and I thought I might be underdressed, but once warmed up, the choice of gear was perfect; Gloves, hat, 2 layers and shorts. We overhauled the first lady at mile 5 when she founded on a soft, muddy track in her road shoes, and, at 7 miles, my running mate took off and over the next 6 miles put a minute into me. However, I was having my own private battle with an Arbroath Footers runner and spent 45 minutes wondering if he was V50. Back on level ground and into the park, the last mile was murder and I lost 2 places drifting from 17th to 19th, but had no resistance left and it took all my energy to stride to the finish line in 1:32. Mrs Mac went walkabouts with some backmarkers and ended up doing 14 miles but they all got back in one piece. The cake, soup and tea selection was ace and we came away with £50 of vouchers and a mental imprint of a really good day out. My nips were also suffering from some unwelcome running vest frictional imprinting.
Its good to do different races; keeps you on your toes. Pass the Vaseline.
(photos by fishygordon and craig cantwell - see facebook)