Forfar Multi-Terrain Half Marathon
By Ali Robertson
Back in November, entries opened for a race I’d been keen to try since Kate ran it in 2013. The Forfar Multi Terrain Half Marathon sounded like loads of fun, and looking at the course it had a little bit of everything too. So Kate and I managed to book a babysitter and we both entered.
Leading up to the race the weather forecast was threatening heavy rain and strong winds, which turned kit choice into a bit of a lottery. Do you wrap up warm and aim to stay dry, but risk overheating, or do you go light and accept you’re going to get wet and hope that you can keep moving to stay just warm enough. In the end we chose different solutions, Kate went sensible with a waterproof, and I went with short sleeves and a wee pair of gloves for protection.
The race starts at the Strathmore Rugby Club next to Forfar Loch, it’s a cracking wee place but given the weather on race day it was pretty unpleasant standing around waiting for the countdown. The early part of the route follows a clockwise trail and road around the Lochside, it was a lovely flat start and the pace was fast. As the race heads back towards the town it turns and climbs up a small steep hill then onto the first of the muddy farm roads heading North and out of town. After a fast section along a main road pavement we came to the first road crossing. To keep runners safe they make you get your number stamped by a marshal, allowing them to control the road crossing, this happens 7 times in all around the route as you take little farm roads, tracks and muddy paths in between the crossings.
The route took us North and then East away from Forfar through some lovely quiet farmland, although the tracks were full of deep puddles and the paths were full of deep and slippy mud. I learned a valuable race lesson at one road checkpoint at the 7 mile mark. I swung in via the only drink stop for a quick swig of water, only to find myself stuck behind a queue of runners for the checkpoint marshal… next time I’ll get the stamp first and the drink second, I should have realised how close they were behind me.
One section of the race I was looking forward to was through a fenced off footpath through a working quarry. The trail here was fun to run on, until one flooded section that was up to my knees and about 75m long. There was no alternative way around… the water was cold, we just had to wade in. After this came another short road section, and then a lovely single track section in rolling hills before the sting in the tail of the race, the climb up Balmashaner Hill. A lovely bit of trail but it was steep in places, felt like it went on forever, and it was into the wind. I’m sure the view was lovely from up there, but I couldn’t focus on anything but one foot in front of the other by now.
The climb quickly turns into a jelly legged fast downhill section, then crossing another road and passing through a farm before the descent towards the finish. This was straight and fast and quite slippy. I had two lads on my shoulder so couldn’t back off. Turning a corner the track disappeared into a bog, the route then following a field edge, this was hard work so late on.
One more road crossing and we were into the Industrial Estate, my calfs were now screaming at me to stop. Passing the 12mile marker the two lads passed me. We turned along a road straight into the headwind again, it was pancake flat but felt like a huge hill. Finally a marshal pointed us towards the loch again, and I knew we were close, but not before we had negotiated the muddy trail that wound its way towards the Rugby Club again. A cheeky cameraman was poised at the final bend, I somehow managed two thumbs for him… inside wanting to give him two fingers I felt so exhausted.
After the finish the facilities whilst cramped, were excellent. Hot showers, indoor changing rooms, free sports massage and a huge amount of cakes, sandwiches, soups, teas and coffees. We made the most of it all.
I managed to finish 27th in a time of 96:17 just over a minute outside my target but I’ll take that in the conditions, and Kate finished 140th in 2:06:46 (4 mins faster than her 2013 time and the 2013 course measured only 12.5 miles). Here we are looking pleased to finish:
It’s a great race, no bells and whistles, no medals or tees afterwards, but for £9 you get a lot for your money, a well marshalled race, and some good individual and team prizes. Kate and I already can’t wait for the 2017 entry battle, we hope to see more Stoney folk there next year.