Friday, 9 December 2016

the last of the wols

Around September October I get this background bad vibe. I should be updating the WoL entry forms and fine tuning the email list so I can invite 300 folk to the Water of Leith Half Marathon at the end of November / beginning of December. Last couple of years I have been feeling less enchanted by the prospect, and this year I managed to put it off until late October. I toyed with the idea of cancelling it entirely on the flimsy excuse that various sections around Murrayfield were off limits and required extensive diversions. Jim Bruce (the original organiser) said if it was becoming a chore then I should certainly quit. However, Richard D, co-director until he moved west, said he would be there on the day to do the stuff I couldn't: drive the luggage vehicle, start the early birds and flour the top of the route. And so many folk always say how much they enjoy the event. Ok, I'll do it this year but for the last time. Like running the last lap of a race or cross country, the knowledge that you're on the final circuit makes it easier. Almost a pleasure.

And there are pleasurable aspects for sure. However the handicap nature of the race makes for quite a bit of admin, and flouring the route the day before the race is quite a thought as well. This year: 13+ bags of flour and 4 and a half hours. Although I was doing this on my bike I was actually overtaken by a walker who was passing me every time I stopped to make another arrow. So it actually takes longer than walking the course. At least it wasn't raining. 

Eric provided the highlight of the event, the catering at the finish line.

In the manner of acceptance speeches I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the kind folk who marshal every year. In the past there has been an interest to get onto the invite list for this event. We keep numbers small because if there were hundreds of folk jumping over car bonnets at the road crossings and barging dog walkers off the narrow paths it might reflect badly. We hire a 70 seater coach and that limits numbers as well. In the past we have said you can get onto the invite list by marshalling one year and then running it the next. Some kind folk have marshalled several years without any more of an inducement than Eric's catering (it's that good!). This year it was...

Jonathan W has marshalled at Lanark Rd for as long as I can remember, cycling down the route as back marker. And he reminded me the early birds would require an earlier marshal.
Sue and Dave K were at Balgreen Rd.
Roseburn was absent of marshals this year in what was either a controlled experiment or badministration.
Louise K was at Stockbridge.
Michael G was (not for the first time) guarding the bridge at the colonies.
Big thanks to all who helped out, including Yana and Johnny on the finish line.

Simon, this year's winner.

The handicap is based on a recent Half time and that way we discourage the usual suspects coming in first. There are few prizes - well only 2 really - for this race, however traditionally it is won by someone who is in the course of improving from their last half. So a newby or the like and not an elite runner. There is always a tense wait to see who appears across the river. If it is an elite runner it would only be because they had pulled the wool over my eyes, (there is quite a lot of this goes on, inadvertently or vertently), or badly underestimated their abilities. Now while Simon used to be an elite runner it is quite some time since he was on a podium. Injuries and chronic problems (drinking problems?☺) have dogged his running and his handicap was based on a perfectly legitimate half marathon earlier in the year; his only half this year until the WoL, although he neglected to mention the pint of beer chugged in the first half. Simon hurpled in looking like it nearly killed him, and was still walking kind of funny, hours afterwards. I was pleased he felt it was worth the sacrifice and delighted he won, although I haven't checked in with him to see if he survived beyond the prize giving. An excellent result to mark my final WoL.

Yana and Johnny and a couple of early birds finishing.

If you can make your own way to the startline for 9.30 there is an early birds option. Richard started about 9 runners this year before the coach arrived although we saw them coming down the hill from the bus windows. It gives slower runners a chance to take part in an unhurried manner. (And leaves more seats on the coach for others.) They are excluded from the prizes but get to the catering tables earlier!

Ronnie, an early bird and our most senior runner this year.


Lana, first lady.

So we have 2 prizes. Male and female. First went to Simon, second went to Lana, making her first half marathon a special one. If a female crosses the line first we give the second prize to first bloke.

Graham had a strong run.
He also helped by flouring the top part of the course.

Jim hitching up his shorts in an alluring manner.

Dr Neil racing Seona.

Seona told me she had to climb a wall at Murrayfield. "Did you not get the email saying avoid the playing fields at Murrayfield with the map attached?" I asked, feeling responsible. "Yes" says she, "But the lure of 4 folk ahead going that way was too much." And quite a high wall she told me for a shorter person to climb! 

Nice to see Anne and Stuart of Dunbar coming in very nearly together. In a slightly mischievous manner I had started Graham, Nick and Stuart in a pack of 7, knowing they would encourage each other in the first few miles. 

Shona hit her handicap spot on so won a spot prize bottle.

I asked Andy (number 60) and Angus if they would consider taking over the organisation for subsequent years. After a pause to think about it they came back to me saying they would. I noticed their potential for responsibility last year when they marshalled Roseburn junction in an individual manner. Jim Bruce has known Andy since he was born (as a neighbour before he moved to the islands,) so it is kind of fitting. Andy becomes a father in January. Talking of which, Saturday was my first meeting with baby Benedict, in fact we have been seeing far too little of Christina and Richard since Ben arrived.

Neil, number 54 arrived puffing at the start line having misjudged the time it would take to get there, nearly ten minutes after his start time. We gave him about 10 secs recovery, turned him around and sent him off. So it was good to see he survived, and even enjoyed it.

This couple started early (pre-10am) (promised not to win!) and threatened to stop at cafes en route. Jonathan on bike behind.

Peter R (channeling Benny Hill perhaps) emailed a while back to say he was ticking off all the Scottish Half Marathons and was keen to do this one. Oh all right then. However he made it more difficult for himself by ignoring the HUGE WHITE ARROWS (did I mention the 13 bags of flour and 4.5 hrs???) and taking a more imaginative route to Leith, coming in even behind our 2 leisurely cafe goers and Jonathan the sweeper. I think he (Peter) recorded the most miles run for the day.

In the past I handed over to Jim B to present the prizes as I am disinclined to public speaking and Jim enjoys that kind of thing. However Jim had not made it this year. Maybe I could defer to Richard. Then Richard appeared briefly in the pub to say he had been barred (he says no toddlers allowed though this seemed very unlikely) and that he and Christina would be going elsewhere for lunch. Yikes, I am obliged to stand up and do the prizes. I had just begun to breath a sigh of relief that nobody had fallen in the river or got run over at a road crossing. I downed my pint rapido which gave me sufficient dutch courage and managed through the talking bit without incident. I then drank lots of beer and some lovely people gave me bottles of wine.

I look forward to coming back next year as a competitor and, for the first time in years, actually taking part. Many thanks to Andy and Angus for keeping this special event going. 

responsible adults

Je suis Lucky Pierre.

The team prize was won this year by team Lucky Pierre. I was going to scrap the team prize because it is almost impossible to work out in the time allowed: you have to establish runners positions and the cumulative score and then other teams and see who has the least points. Normally this is done on a lap top as are the results however Richard did all this on paper using only a pencil and strangely it seemed more efficient. Anyway Richard said he'd do the team results which only left the problem of who won the team prize last year as they would (hopefully) arrive with the prize for this year's recipients. Except I had no idea of who won last year. I bought some team beers before Louise P came forward with more beers saying herself and Lucy and another had won the team prize last year. Lucky Lucky Pierre. Who were Graham N, Jim H and Chris H, (just pipping team Dunbar.)

To their credit Lucky Pierre shared their luck, and their beers with a few of the other Carnethies sitting nearby. I had a handful (a skinful) of beers with them before having the good sense to retreat home, leaving them to cruise Leith pubs.

I said last blog I'd explain the name Lucky Pierre. I first came across Aidan Moffat, with the ambient album Hypnogogia (2002 on the Melodic label). He worked under the name Lucky Pierre and I used one of his excellent tracks for an arthouse type video I made in 2012.

Graham, Gregor and I had been discussing matters of culture on our Great Glen run and it was as a result of this, I think, that Graham was adopting the team name for the WoL. It must have been that, because the only other reference to Lucky Pierre (urban dictionary link NSFW) is the position of choice (debatably) in a French Sandwich.

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