The horn sounded almost as soon as everyone was lined up, and we were off. I wished Red Head well, and then made my own way into the crowd.
My first mile was 6:55. I'd felt a bit trapped by the crowd, but didn't want to go out too hard. 6:55 was a little on the slow side, but the crowd seemed to thin a bit after the mile marker.
Mile 2 was 13:44. Better. It was sunny, but cool. The course headed out along a river on a country road.
3 was 20:25. Still making time. Between mile 3 and 4 the road crossed the river and headed back into Dunblane. We now were running into a strong wind.
In a 10-mile hill race late last year, I toiled away through boggy and cold conditions to the summit of a bald Scottish hill. It was windy, and my arms, exposed in a short-sleeved shirt, felt numb. I eventually reached the summit of the climb, and was pleased to begin the 5 mile descent back to the start/finish line.
As the descent progressed I began to feel, inexplicably, exhuberant. A phrase from the Origin of Species began to drum in my head "There is a grandeur in this view of life".
Legs fully extended on each stride, I stomped through the mud and bog and sprinted towards the finish. In the cold, in the mud, as I passed other runners, I felt terrific.
This, in part, is why I race: for those occasional moments of stepping outside of myself, for elusive day when you just feel great, for those fleeting moment within a race when you feel the joy of running hard.
Doubtless this is just hypoxia.
I began feel good at mile four. It was windy, but perhaps the gradient was slightly downhill, because I felt like running faster.
Mile 5 was 34:23. I was running sub-7 minute miles. Now there were only 2.5 miles left in the race, so there was less of a worry of running out of gas before the end. I was running one of the strongest races of my life.
At mile 6 I was back into town, and was at 41 mins something. I pushed my legs out in front of me, and the road felt great under my feet.
At 7 I was 48:35. There was a steady climb - not as bad as feared - back to the Hydro hotel. There, however, was a steep climb up to the finish.
I crossed the line at 52:22 on my watch. 37th out of 323. For me, one my my best races, in percentile times. I could not have run this faster, and I doubt that I'll be able to beat this time on this course again.