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Illuminator Run 2015 - Tim Heilbronn

Illuminator Run Half Marathon + 2015 - Tim Heilbronn

 

I should firstly introduce myself! My wife, Jackie, and I are relatively new members, having joined at the beginning of September, just before the autumn handicap at Camperdown, and having enjoyed the experience of a few parkruns at Camperdown.There...I have done it...I have put the words "enjoyed" and "run" in the same sentence.Having done everything I could to avoid exercise at school, and throughout the subsequent years, never would I have imagined that those two words would escape my lips together as I fast approach my 60thyearWith the encouragement of members we have, however, definitely gone through that magic portal that separates "fair-weather joggers", to enthusiastic, "go-out-in-anything runners", even if we are still on the slow side!

How does one face writing one's first article for the illustrious DRR Monthly Newsletter?In my case, with just about the same trepidation as when we faced the recent "Illuminator Half Marathon +" held on November 14 in the Glen Tanar National Park, just south of Aboyne.

At least, though, when I accepted the invitation from Elaine a month ago to write something, I didn't then promptly burst into tears. Unlike our youngest team-mate who confessed that she had done just that after proposing that we did the inaugural "Illuminator Run", branded as Scotland's toughest half marathon. Given that at that stage we had only a few 5k's, and one10k (see below) under our belt, maybe a little on the over-ambitious side!

RULE ONE : If you are on a "high" from having just completed an event, don't comment to your team mates "Who fancies doing....?", if you haven't considered that their response might be in the affirmative.They may also be on that same adrenaline-fuelled "trip", and up for ANYTHING!In our case we had just done the 10k "Banchory Beast" on September 26th, where our team of four, myself (58), fellow DRRmember, John McIntosh (51), Rachel Toth (44), and Lucia Tisnes (36), had crossed the line together at position 325 out of 1691.Not bad considering that most of the fellow competitors were about half our age (well mine anyway!).As an aside, the "Beast" is great fun if you fancy a run up and down a hill, with 25 obstacles including a mud pool, swims across icy lochs, crawling under barbed wire, getting over a 12ft wall...and the best giant water slide EVER....wheeeeeeeeeeeee.......

The full title of the proposed event was the "Illuminator Half Marathon + 14 November 2015".If you are like me, you might naively gloss over that "+", and consider it as being just a novel separator between the distance and the date.

RULE TWO : Read the small print!In this case the small print included the words: "Go wild through the night on Scotland's toughest night half marathon...15 dark miles over rugged hill trails..."

Whoa...let's backtrack there!!!!When did a Half Marathon suddenly become FIFTEEN miles.Arrrrr... so that is what the "+" meant!The "+" also meant, it turned out, 2,247ft of ascent, and on closer look at the website, it had a lovely graphic showing the race profile, and the less-than comforting words (not even in pink...for fans of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) saying "Not to be underestimated".

I think that's when Lucia burst into tears.

On the positive side, the invitation to sign up stated "run or walk...with just the glow of your head torch to lead the way. See the natural beauty of Glen Tanar's ancient Scots pine forest in a spectacular new light."

Romantic or what?How, really, could we resist?Guide times, it said, for runners, 3.5 hours; average finishing time for walkers, 6 hours.Kick-off time was 6.30 pm.Worst case scenario we should be finished by midnight, and tucked up in our beds with our cups of cocoa back in Dundee by 3 am!

If we were going to do this, I thought that it would be a good idea to have a go doing the route in the daylight, and this met with approval from John who was keen to check it out with Rachel, Lucia, Jackie and I in advance, as he wouldn't be able to do it on the day as it coincided with the Glen Clova Half Marathon.

So we duly headed up to Aboyne on 17th October to check it out...and in our enthusiasm managed to miss a vital turn on two occasions so that we ended up running 16 miles, covering just two-thirds of the route, and having to do a substantial section of the circular route in reverse.If we couldn't find our way in the daylight, how on earth were we going to manage in the dark?


We needn't have worried.When it came to the day of the race, the organisation was superb, with 250 marker posts with reflective tape and 150 arrows guaranteeing that the 690 who had registered couldn't get lost!

In addition to coinciding with the Glen Clova Half Marathon, The Illuminator also coincided with the tail end of Storm Abigail which had hit Scotland two days before, dumping huge amounts of rain on what was already very wet ground. The storm had left very muddyconditions underfoot in places, but thankfully the winds had calmed, and whilst cold, about 2 to 3 degrees, it stayed dry throughout the run, with the forecast further rain not arriving until during our drive back to Dundee.

Although 690 had registered, there were the inevitable drop-outs, mainly before the race but there were about a dozen DNFs, so that only 550 completed.One of those who had to drop out before the event, sadly, was Jackie, who had managed to pull her calf muscle at the Park Run the week before.The physio had described her muscle as feeling like "bubble wrap" and had advised that a 15 mile hill run would not benefit her longer-term recovery.On the bright side, although only for the rest of our team, that meant that she could be our Support Crew!

The base for the event was the Arboyne Academy and connected Community Centre.Registration was slickly handled between 5 and 6.15 pm, before most of us assembled in the school sports hall for a safety briefing and "disco warmup" in the comfort of the warmth of the hall.Meanwhile the really serious runners were doing proper warm-ups outside in the rapidly chilling evening air, where we joined them for a slightly later than planned start at about 6.45.

The first half mile along the main road out of Arboyne quickly separated the fast guys from the main pack, and us in turn from the few "walkers" at the rear. Then it was on to the track into the Glen Tanar National Park, with about 5 miles of mostly steady climbing. A lone piper from the Braemar Mountain Rescue team greeted us at the top of the first major hill at about 3.4 miles (5.5 k).No idea what he was playing, but it was stirring stuff, and certainly spurred us on for the second part of this climbing section before a very welcome downhill run for 1.5 k, and then a third, shorter hill at 6.2 miles (10k).

From there it was a pleasant run on a steady downhill trajectory, through the "Light Zone" - a mini version of the Enchanted Forest, with welcome warm juice / snacks - and on to the final hill at 12.2 mikes (19.5 km).This 150 m hill, through some very muddy sections churned up by 4-wheel off-road vehicles, proved a "killer" and a bit much for my tiring legs, so I decided to use the lightweight poles that I had strapped to the back of my rucksack.They proved even more use on the steep descent the other side, when many others were floundering in the slippery conditions, and they gave me the confidence to plough straight through some horrendous mud.

And then down the final gentler slope and back along the main road into Arboyne.This last-half mile, on a slight rise with tired legs, was perhaps the hardest psychologically, and it was great to be cheered in by Jackie across the finish line.

Given our a) inexperience, and b) advanced age compared with the majority of the fit, young entrants, we were very pleased with our time of 2 hrs 55.17, at positions 218-220 out of the 550 finishers, which whilst an hour after the first person back (First Male, William Stewart, 1.54.11; First Female, 13th place, Stephanie Provan, 2.02.38), was two and a quarter hours ahead of the tail-enders, and more importantly, 35 minutes ahead of our target time of 3 and a half hours (their guide "average" time for runners).

Full marks to the Organisers and Marshals for a very well run event, and to Jackie for putting on a brave face for not being able to take part, and being such an excellent Support Crew. Rather than the usual medal, the "trophy" for all finishers was a branded Illuminator 2015 mug, filled with a (non-alcoholic) hot drink of your choice. At least that is something you can proudly take into work without being accused of being a poser!

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