Today's race was the Water of Leith Half marathon and this year, for the first time, I had what I considered to be a generous handicap and knew I had to throw everything at it! This great, small, low-key handicap race runs every winter - up until now organised by Jim Bruce and Stornoway runners but soon to be taken over by Porties own RD (Richard Dennis) and PB.
At the bus which takes you up to the start we were pleased to find Jim Scott, as well as Ben, Richard and Lucy C. As there were 6 of us we could make 2 teams and as we couldn't be bothered to figure out all the ramifications of how our handicap times were likely to help or disadvantage us we decided to divi up the teams on the basis of height. Thus the teams Porty Tall and Porty Small were created!
I had a handicap of 1.46 and was pretty sure I could run 1.41 so wanted to make the most of this. The rules are that if you beat your handicap by more than 5 minutes you get penalised by 5 minutes but in practice I think if you won by taking more than 5 mins off your HC they would let you off with it. I set off determinedly and was making good headway although it was hard work. The pleasing thing about a handicap is you get to pick off runners who you can be fairly sure must be running less strongly than you or you wouldn't have caught them. I probably put too much into the 1st part of the race, but its downhill, so its hard to decide what would be a reasonable pace. I went through 10K in what would be a pb time and had no idea if I could sustain what I was doing but was willing to give it a bash. There were footsteps quite close behind me but not trying to pass for quite a while and I was trying to not let this bother me.
As I crossed the road at Arnold Clark at a bit more than 7.5 miles 1 of the 2 girls in pink I had been chasing for sometime was lying on her side in the central reserve of the pedestrian crossing. Her friend hurriedly told me I needed to stop to help, which I did as did the man who had been behind me. She was already in the recovery position and I checked her pulse which was fine and steady and she was breathing fine and her face was pink. "Have you got a phone?" the guy asked the vertical runner in pink. He phoned an ambulance for her. I in the meantime had put my Garmin off as a matter of habit. I was pretty much thinking my race was over. There had been some slight chance that I could get my first win in a race but that was receding quickly. I was pretty sure the girl was okay. The only things I would recognise would be a heart-attack or heat stroke or hypoglycaemia or anaphylactic shock. Or a faint...but she didn't even look pale. Some paramedics arrived in a car and jumped out so I switched my Garmin back on and took off - realising I now had no idea what my "race time" was.
My splits got much worse after this. Whether I was due for a crash due to overextending in the 1st half or whether the whole thing had just put me off my stride I didn't know, but instead of running steadily I was now struggling and in a bad frame of mind.
I passed a few more runners. One set of runners, suspiciously, I passed twice! I didn't start to get passed myself until after Powderhall B&Q, near a wooden bridge, I heard a runner closing down on me and then the stern tones of Richard Dennis telling me to dig in as he rushed past. Another guy passed me I think and then, as I turned for the last sprint to the finish line back down in Leith, Lucy C. went by. "Well done Lucy" was my 1st (audible)response, and then "Maybe I can catch her!" echoed in my head so I did my best in a sprint for the line but Lucy held me off!
The good thing was that Porty small had all finished in quick succession quite high up the field and I thought a team prize was likely. Quite soon after I saw the unusual sight of Peter finishing a race and then shortly afterwards Ben Kemp came thrashing in. I'd run a personal GARMIN time of 1.41.44, but that did not take into account stoppage time. As the WOL half is a bit longer than your average half it was an average of 7.34pace which I was pleased with. There was a massive spread of cakes and coffee and I got tucked into sticky ginger cake with very sweet white icing - sugar RUSH. At the presentation afterwards, sure enough Porty Small were the victors, so we each got a Stornoway black pudding for our efforts. I gave mine to Jim Scott because he was telling me he loves black pudding and I've read too much about hard fats and heart disease now to really be able to enjoy.
I've been looking at my data on Garmin Connect for the race today and it looks like I was stopped at the traffic island for 1 min 18 seconds, so as long as the winner beat me by more than that its alright...