Organised by UK Running Series, and the second race in their Central Lowlands Challenge, Race the Kelpies was a flat loop course offering 5k (1 loop), 10k (2 loops) and half marathon (4 loops and a bit!) distances as well as a kids 3k race. I signed up for the half marathon as part of my training plan for the Stirling marathon which has since been cancelled. However it still fitted in well with my other training and was a good chance to try and set a new half marathon PB. Pre race I was very nervous of not being able to run as fast as I would like. I hadn’t managed any speed work for a few weeks and had a niggly glute that wasn’t getting any better (luckily it wasn’t getting worse either). In preparation instead of doing intervals I added in a few hills runs, running most of the uphills! This was great for my mood and my legs!
The half marathon started at 9am, with registration open from 8.15am. This meant an early (but not too early) start. Iain, Rhona, Angus and Spud (the dog) came down to cheer me on and enjoy a walk (and ice cream) around the Kelpies and Helix Park. Registration was straight forward, with friendly and helpful volunteers and organisers. Bottles could be left or refilled at the aid station at the start/ finish/turning point on the loops. The toilets at the cafe were open a short walk from the start.
At 8.55am the half marathon runners congregated at the start for a short race briefing and description of the route. Twice around the “Great Lawn” before heading through the start for the first loop – a there and back again down the side of the lawn, past the park and around the lagoon before heading down the path leading to The Kelpies, a marshalled road crossing and on to the canal path before running to the turning point by the shops. It was all well signposted and marshalled.
It was not a big race and around 40 racers started. We started promptly at 9am and I found myself near the front of the group. I had already decided to start at a roughly 8min/mile pace (if it felt comfortably uncomfortable!) and see how long I could hold on for (unknown territory running so fast!). A couple of ladies passed me on the first loop of the grass and were clearly going at a slightly faster pace. No other women came past so if I could maintain the pace I would be able to finish 3rd Female. That set a good goal to work for. I found a couple of male runners who were running at just under an 8 min/mile pace and decided to try and stick with them!
The first loop went really quickly, the park was still quiet so there weren’t too many people to dodge, the pace felt manageable and the route was interesting with plenty to look at. The bonus of a loop course was that at each turning point I was able to see how far behind the 4th and 5th lady were! The second loop was harder work as the sun came out from behind the clouds and it got hotter. I hadn’t carried any water but was able to grab my bottle from my support crew when I needed and then hand it back when I next passed them. It was nice to see them all at different points on the route on each loop. All of the paths were wide enough that passing people was never a problem and there were only 2 points on later loops where I needed to nip onto the grass to pass slower runners. I also had a KMC NRG gel on the second and third loop when I began to tire – these definitely gave me an energy boost!
I finished the second loop 5 minutes before the 10k race started which was ideal as it meant that by the time the 10k racers reached me they had spaced out and only the fastest went passed. I didn’t even notice when the 5k runners started as everyone was well spaced out by then. Seeing runners each lap meant that for the third and fourth loops I was able to encourage slower runners – a lot had headphones in so probably didn’t hear me but I enjoyed it! It is always impressive seeing people challenging themselves and pushing their own limits. The third and fourth laps were harder work and by the fourth I had to work hard to maintain the pace. I was holding my position well but even when the sun went behind a cloud and it cooled down a bit it was still hard work! I fell back on counting from 1-8 repeatedly in time with my steps. I find this really helps me keep going and keep a pace. Overtaking the guy I had been following in the last lap also gave me a boost! A final push to the finish and it was done. A finish time of 1:45:22, a big new PB, 3rd female and 14th overall. Not a bad morning’s work!
All in all this was great event, well organised and everyone was very friendly and helpful. A great flat course for people to try a longer distance, go for a new PB or just have an enjoyable run.