Red Rose Road Runners

A week of two Halves Part One – Kirkwall Half Marathon Sunday 21st August – Ruth Travis

A week of two Halves Part One – Kirkwall Half Marathon Sunday 21st August – Ruth Travis

Back once again like the renegade master………7 weeks after I was last in Orkney running the marathon, I find myself back for the Kirkwall Half marathon.

Driving north across the mainland towards Kirkwall, the weather is dull and quite misty, so probably no chance of getting any good views around Orkney today. Registration is at the Pickaquoy leisure centre aka The Picky. Race numbers are allocated according to age group so all Senior Women are given the 140’s and all Veteran women are the 150’s. This I feel is a stroke of genius as admit it, who hasn’t in a race, when running alongside someone who vaguely looks the same age as you, played the “Are you in my age category or not?” game. So now I know who my competition is. The race numbers themselves appear to be pre-used, as they are quite battered and are just that, a number with no sponsor name or race name on them and you are requested to return them at the end. How very eco-friendly.

There is no starting line or starting arch. Everyone (an entire field of about 30 runners) is just milling around at the Picky entrance. I am approached by two Darwen Dashers (the female one saying she used to run for Red Rose about 3 years ago, any ideas as to who she is?). What are the chances of racing somewhere as random as Orkney to find yourself alongside local running neighbours from just down the road? They are also on holiday and only entered as they saw a poster in the race organiser’s front room window, and entered there and then on his doorstep. You couldn’t do that with the Great North Run.

We are led down onto the main road, the organiser mumbles something, and then its 3-2-1 go and we are off. The field quickly spreads out before we’ve even got past Kirkwall harbour. A lady from Gala Harriers who I suspected would be fast is already out of sight. There is a young girl, perhaps about 17 with a look of Finty Royle about her, who is a couple of hundred metres in front of me and becomes my target to aim for. Perhaps too ambitious, but what the heck. Not being that familiar with parts of the route I am just literally following the person in front. The route is marked with tiny wooden arrows with K1/2M on them on the minor turns, that if you hadn’t seen the person in front of you turn that way, it would be easy to miss. They are marshals on most of the major turns though, diligently ticking off our numbers on their checklists and water stations are every three miles.

Try as I might I don’t seem to be getting any closer to Scottish Finty, so I resign myself to being third. I have become so focused on who is in front of me, that I am quite surprised when a female runner in sunglasses (it wasn’t sunny) steams past me and overtakes me at about 4 miles. Game on then, love. Perhaps she just had an energy spurt as I don’t have to run any faster before she is dropped. That’ll learn her, though I am conscious that she is still lurking, though her number tells me she is a Senior not a Veteran. Somehow Scottish Finty is getting closer and doesn’t appear to be running that well anymore. I overtake her and she is making quite a lot of noise breathing wise. We are running into a head wind and both Scottish Finty and a man in a blue shirt tuck in behind me, using my incredible bulk to shield themselves from the wind. Cheeky.


Just before half way there is a good short downhill section taking us back down to sea level. I am the world’s worst downhill runner, even on tarmac. I put the brakes on and predictably Blue Shirted man and Scottish Finty breeze past me. She seems to have recovered from her little dip and is running strongly again and I know she will soon be a speck in the distance.. There is a long slow drag at about mile 7 and my lack of long training runs is taking its toll. I am looking behind me more than I should be, keeping an eye on Sunglasses lady.

The second half of the race is more undulating but more rural, down country lanes, through farmland, with fields of cattle and Shetland ponies that, like the Darwen Dashers, are also a long way from home. After threatening to brighten up, the weather has got chillier, with low cloud descending and light drizzle. The last 3 miles are essentially the first three miles of the Orkney marathon so I now have more of an idea as to where I am. The runner behind me is steadily gaining on me, so Sunglasses lady is going to overtake me. I decide to stop looking behind me, wave the white flag and surrender to the inevitable. But when I do get overtaken, it turns out it isn’t Sunglasses lady after all, but in fact a man. WTF? Quite why I had got myself in such a tizzy, I don’t know. I guess I really wanted a ‘podium’ finish, which is only ever possibly going to happen in a really small race like this.

So third female I was in a time of 1:49:02 (for 12.9 miles). The finish was as low key as the start, with just a crowd of people indicating that might be where it is. Unusually for a half marathon, everyone hung around and waited until the last runner had finished, which was nice. Then it was inside for free sandwiches and cakes and the prize giving. I had cleaned myself up, put my Red Rose hoodie on and was even practising smiling in preparation. Gala Harriers lady got first Veteran, and Scottish Finty got first Senior. And that concluded the prize giving. No first, second or third and then age categories? It would appear not. No T-shirt or medal either, but it was a really good race, a lot tougher than I imagined it would be.

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