Nine years ago, the Great Scottish Run was the first Half-Marathon I ever participated in. So when I found myself waiting in the starting pens for the gun to go off on Sunday, it was a special experience in many ways; a trip down memory lane, as well as a realisation of how far I have come.
Moreover, the Great Scottish Run was also my last race before I shall attempt the classic run from Marathon to Athens in November. As such, it was a dress rehearsal for my actual target race, and in many ways “just a long run”. With my training having gone as splendidly as it has, I was quietly confident in my ability to last the distance.
With the race day nerves firmly in check, I was able to just soak in and absorb the electric atmosphere. And boy, it was amazing! The biggest sporting event in Scotland held in its largest city, filled with people who were generous in showing their support of the race by lining the streets and making a plethora of cheerful noise. The event also added fuel to the national hype which is progressively building ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which come next year will be hosted in the very same city through which we trotted. Mortal runners got to line up behind some inspirational and well-known Scottish athletes, but the cherry on top of the icing on the atmosphere cake came in the form of none other than the legendary Haile Gebrselassie, who is of course and without a doubt one of the best distance runners in the world.
Given that I have no time for any form of recovery post-race, I couldn’t afford to race this run, so instead I decided to just have fun on the run and let everyone around me do the racing. I paid attention to the scenery, offered words of encouragement to fellow runners, hollered and waved at all those who cheered us on and tried to look gracefully aloof for any camera I spotted.
I stubbornly ignored my watch until just after the 10 km marker, at which point I noticed a young man who was slowing down. I pulled up next to him and stayed for a little chat, during which I found out that he’d never ran a half-marathon before and was deflated by the realisation that his goal of a sub 1:50 half-marathon was slipping out of his reach. I figured that if he had never before encountered a rough patch on a run, how was he supposed to know that they don’t tend to last? Therefore, I promised him that I’d do my best to pace him to his goal, an offer which lit up his face and instantly lifted his posture and pace.
For the second half of the half-marathon, I kept an eye on the time and my newly adopted running disciple and offered much feedback and encouragement, all while keeping up my earlier endeavours of hollering, waving, cheering and general admiring of the scenery.
Not only did the great Haile win the race, he did so by smashing the course record. In fact, he’s run the fastest half marathon ever on Scottish soil, his legendary status well and truly maintained.
Personally, I skipped across the finish line about 45 minutes after the elite runners, clocking an official time of 1:48, a certain determined young man nipping right at my heels. In hindsight, I realise that of course I ran his race for him in the end, but it was a wonderful and rewarding experience. My genuine delight for him to have achieved his goal eclipsed my own finish of the race. As these things go, we lost sight of each other in the t-shirt area and that marked the end of our journey together.
“If you can’t win, make the fellow in front of you break the record.”
– Author sadly unknown
I don’t even want to say too much about my time in the race, as this was never a goal to begin with. The aim was to prepare for Athens, to stay comfortable, and to enjoy the experience. Still, 1:48 is only nine minutes off my personal best, and I can honestly say that I have never felt so physically comfortable in a race before.
Most importantly, my run of the Great Scottish Run 2013 was without a doubt the most fun I have ever had in a race.
I can’t wait to line up at the start line of my next adventure and run a marathon from Marathon!