I really need to sort out this OCD need to have my race number attached to my shirt in the correct position. As the announcer at the registration centre in Loch Leven Community Campus called runners to make their way to the race start (a walk of about a mile), I was on attempt #3 to get number 291 to line up properly. It wasn’t working. It didn’t pass the tolerance parameters my brain has hard-coded in there as “acceptable”. Start again. Attempt #4 barely made the pass threshold, then I needed to sort out my running kit, headphones and attach the chip timer to my laces.

Off at a canter towards the start, I made use of a wynd as an al fresco pee-stop, and barely made the start zone before we were shuffling towards the line. I didn’t hear any announcements, so plugged in the ‘phones, followed the crowd and off we went.

The Start

The Start

The race was sold out this year, with 600 entrants. It is run over open roads in a loop around Loch Leven. The roads are not closed, but, speaking to the organisers, Kinross Road Runners, they clarified that they had adopted a grown-up attitude to the use of headphones. Unlike some other races.

The start comprised a sharp left, then sharp right as we headed out of Kinross. By virtue of my late arrival at the start I was right at the back of the posse and, with no real opportunities to pass, the going was slow. After exiting the town, we had a 2.5 mile straight, featuring a slight incline, which allowed the crowd to thin out. At this point I couldn’t see the Loch and was wondering what all the fuss was about.

Before the event I couldn’t decide whether to treat this one as a race or as the last slow run before the Edinburgh Marathon, which is up in two weeks. As we got going however, the race vibe naturally kicked in. I decided to take it relatively easy over the first half then wind it up in the second half and try to finish strong.

Mile 1: 8.36
Mile 2: 8.38
Mile 3: 8.43

At 2.5 miles we turned left, and there, off to to the left, was Loch Leven in all its majesty. A little far away maybe, but no matter. The first water stop was at 3.5 miles and it was around this point that we started getting attacked by the most aggressive warm of midges I have had the misfortune to encounter. Maybe it was the orange race shirt. Maybe it was the Paul Smith aftershave. Or maybe it was the speed. Whatever, these creatures were clearly sent to make us forget about running and to get us to wave our arms about in front of us like it was rave time, baby. I looked around and saw others doing the same dance. I was slightly thankful that it wasn’t just me they were targeting, but only slightly.

Between 3 and 4 miles we declined down towards the edge of the Loch and then, just as it seemed that a paddle might be in order, we climbed up and away again. This course was earning its tagline – “gently undulating”.

Mile 4: 8.45
Mile 5: 8.49
Mile 6: 8.31

Perhaps they were cyber midges sent to destroy mankind (picture: Gavin Bain)

Perhaps they were cyber midges sent to destroy mankind (picture: Gavin Bain)

We turned left again at 6 miles and headed down to the half way point. The organisers has inserted an extra piece (sharp left ,straight line for about 20m and back) to make up the race distance, and this coincided with a water stop. It all got a bit congested, and I’m sorry to the lady I barged into as she stopped to take on water, but the organisers made up for it by handing out jelly babies. I’ve been experimenting with these on long runs but had forgotten to pack some, so I took the slight time hit to score a red one.

Then onwards towards the settlement at Scotlandwell, which, the entry sign told us, had earned itself a Scotland-in-bloom medal. It was indeed pretty, but I was wondering if all these blooms were the reason the midges had shown up. I was feeling pretty relaxed and started to wind things up a bit, just like I had planned. Unfortunately this cunning plan coincided with another incline as we moved through another settlement that had a similar award to boast about – Kinnesswood. This incline was a bit steeper than the others – nothing to write home about, but enough to keep the pace in check. The midges were still in full attack mode. I silently cursed the bloomers. Probably it wasn’t their fault, but I needed someone to blame.

Mile 7: 8:18
Mile 8: 8.43
Mile 9: 8.31

We were reaching the business end of the race. I was feeling good and kept pressing. Around 12 miles we cut left into a footpath which bisected some fields. Some runners had stopped to walk, but I powered on. Garbage – Push It came on the ‘phones at exactly the right time. I knew I had taken it easy over the first half but I began to think I was getting into PB territory. My PB, set at the Highland Perthshire Half Marathon last year, is 1:49:37 (I don’t record the 1:48:43 set at the Meadows Half Marathon as I am convinced it was short). To get that PB, my average pace was 8:27. As I neared the end of this race, I could see my average pace coming down, below 8:30 and falling. I *really* pushed it.

Mile 10: 8.18
Mile 11: 7.54
Mile 12: 8.03
Mile 13: 8.04
Extra bit: 7.57 (pace).

loch leven goodyGoing past the 13 mile marker I glanced at the Garmin to see 1:50:x. What the? Over the finish line I felt a real sense of disappointment. I was sure I had earned a PB. I actually recorded the same average pace as my best time, but this race measured longer on the Garmin. I’m going to pay a bit less attention to the Garmin in future.

No t-shirt, but a good sized water bottle and a 2014-specific medal in the goody bag, together with a banana and a BBQ burger voucher. Having queued for 15 minutes for my burger feast, though, I found I couldn’t stomach it at all. Partly lack of appetite, and partly burger quality it must be said. Understandable perhaps, as I am sure I imbibed enough midges to count as protein recovery and dinner.

In conclusion, a nice countryside half marathon, with good local support through the settlements. Weather held up well, with none of the forecast rain, and only a light breeze. Well organised and friendly. Should have been a PB.

Official Result

Time: 1.51.20
Position 272 / 532
Category 44 / 68

loch leven half route