by Ali Wyllie
The 4th March 2017 saw the final Foxtrail Winter Running Series Race. This 13k route could be described as being fast and furious, with it’s relatively flat and energising trails, idyllic for all the trail loving runners out there.
However, this was not set to be a good race for me. Having been floored with the lurgy in the previous weeks and struggling to get back to fitness, I knew I would be playing a dangerous game trying to race, but I also knew I needed to complete a 4th race to be in with a chance of scooping the female series win. With two 1st places and one 2nd place under my belt, I calculated I simply needed an ok finish to secure the series.
I made a tough but essential decision to race but not race. I find this really difficult and all too often I ignore my own rules and get scooped up with other racers, contrary to my race plan, but on this occasion I was determined to stick with my plan. I even took it one step further and set myself a target of coming in 4th, 5th or 6th, telling myself that if I podiumed I had failed. I set an additional goal of a finish time of 1 hour. Before the race, several people asked me how I was feeling and if I was looking for a win. I voiced my race goals and by saying them out loud, it meant I was committed. My fear of trying to achieve a podium was that I would run too hard for my fitness level and end up not finishing the race or worse still injured.
Lining up on the start line for the last race of the series, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I felt I was surrounded by friends and a familiarity that brings with it a certain level of comfort. I’ve loved seeing my fellow racers tackle each new route with vigour and enthusiasm and bask in their post-race glow in a flurry of chatter and excitement at the end. Yet, here I was waiting to start the final race, lost in my own thoughts and feeling emotional; almost tearful, at the finality of it all. I crept up near to the front and stopped short of joining the speedy folk right at the front.
It felt strange to hear the gunfire and set off at a calm and composed pace . I felt I was sauntering along with ease, but that is exactly what I needed to do and was precisely what my plan was. Nicola Duncan and Jacqui Thomson were quickly lost to sight along with some of the speedy guys. I was sat in third and this bothered me, until about a mile in when Amanda Ferguson zoomed past. For the first time ever in a race, I felt a tremendous sense of relief as I came crashing off the podium. I encouraged her on and told her she was running into 3rd place. She went on to have an incredible race finishing 2nd female.
I cannot profess to this race being easy for me physically or mentally. I ran hard enough to challenge myself, but not hard enough to break. I struggled emotionally with settling for a place outside the podium. The first non-podium place for me in the series and in fact in any Foxtrail race I have ever entered. I felt people had high expectations of me and I was letting them down. I felt I was letting myself down. But I drew strength from my race plan and reassured myself that finishing the race and being injury free was far more important than striving for a podium finish.
Ultimately I was delighted with myself. I stuck to my race plan like glue, coming home in the EXACT time I aimed for: 1:00:16 (this was fluke by the way, not good pacing skills), and in the best position I could have hoped for – 4th female. Let me be clear, although I raced to a plan I do not for one minute think I could have beaten any of the top 3 females, who all ran brilliantly. Nicola Duncan scooped 1st, Amanda Ferguson took 2nd and Jacqui Thomson took 3rd.
Although I felt confident I had done enough to secure the series, I was not 100% sure until I heard my name being called at the prize giving.
I was warmed to hear my Foxtrail family roar in applause. Stepping up on the podium to accept the 1st female series prize I was overwhelmed with pride. I was joined by Amanda Ferguson who took 2nd place and Jacqui Thomson who took 3rd place. I was chuffed to bits seeing Owain Williams take the 1st place for the males series, following by Richard Laucht and Dave Saunders.
Whilst the Foxtrail Winter Running Series 2016/2017 is complete, the John Muir Way Ultra Marathon is just around the corner. I have sadly had to withdraw and instead offer my services as a helper, I will hopefully see many of you there.
BIG thank you to everyone behind the scenes who make these race happen. James, Cal, John, Mandy and Katie plus all your amazing helpers, you do an outstanding job and it just keeps getting better and better. I don’t know about anyone else but I cannot wait for the 2017/2018 Foxtrail Winter Running Series.
One of my favourite things about the Foxtrail Winter Running Series is how inclusive the races are. I love that canicrosssers are welcome (although if they achieve a podium place they must surrender it as canicross is a dicipline in itself and runners are assisted by their dog). Also, with the introduction of the 5k series this year, many more people have been able to experience the buzz of a trail race - and no doubt become hooked.
Following my race, I cooled down with a celebratory walk on Tyninghame beach along with friends and fellow racers; Lee and Jenny, and our selection of hairy kids.
See you at the 2017/2018 Foxtrail Winter Running Series, the pressure is on to aim for the series win again. EEEEEEK!