5) Scottish National Cross Country Championships
Before this race my best national cross country position was 5th place back when I was an under 13! This was my first year on the senior 12km course and usually it gets a very strong field. A few weeks before I had one of my worst ever races at the Celtic Nations cross country so this was my chance to make up for that.
For the first two laps I was in the lead and feeling really comfortable but with 4km to go Wegene Tafese shot past me and I couldn’t close the gap which was 14 seconds by the finish. He became the first African winner of the Scottish Championships and although I had a good run and exceeded my expectations it was a bit disappointing to lose out.
At the front with Wegene
4) Balmoral 10k
I’ve raced at one (or more) of the Balmoral races every year since I was 12 and have competed in races of 2.5k, 5k, 10k, half marathon and 15 miles. The 10k is normally the most competitive and it’s the one I’ve been most desperate to win over the years. It’s just about the best 10k road course you can get for a few reasons. Firstly, you get to run at 5min/mile pace through some really nice bits of Deeside’s Caledonian pine forest. Half the course is on forest tracks and not tarmac; underfoot it’s still fast but it is a bit more exciting. It also has a long hill after 3km which can slow down a lot of road runners. The course suits me perfectly and it’s the biggest local running event but I’d never won the 10k before.
A group of runners came up from Central AC and they dominated the 5k race and with Scott McDonald doing the 10k I knew it would be tough. On the hill me and Scott were side by side, pushing as hard as possible to try and get an advantage. At the top we were still even but I increased the pace again to a stupid speed as I knew I would recover on the downhill section. This time I got ahead of Scott and used the next few kilometres of downhill to get a gap of 20 seconds. I ran the last 5km of the race in around 14.30 which was enough to get me just inside the course record set by Robert Russell a few years before.
To win my local race for the first time and in a new course record was amazing and one of the highlights of the year.
3) Neirivue le Moleson, Switzerland
This was my second mountain race in Europe this summer and my first top 3 result. Going in to the race I was quite relaxed and just wanted to get a few races under my belt to prepare me for the rest of the season. It was a good attitude to go in to the race with as I hadn’t done it before and didn’t really know how I compared to the rest of the guys.
The race went well for me and I was able to take advantage of the fast technical sections and steep ascents to get in to a good position. Alex Baldaccini was well out in front so it left me and Saul Padua Antonio from Columbia to battle it out for 2nd. I was about 30 seconds ahead going in to the last 500m vertical climb to the finish and he was closing the gap quickly. At one point he was right on my shoulder but the steeper rougher ground suited me and I was able to stay ahead. On the last 400m on more runnable trails I had to dig deep to keep the gap but it paid off when I got 2nd place by just over 10 seconds.
- Last effort before the finish
The selection of different Gruyere cheeses, local yogurts and fruit at the finish made it well worth the 1200m ascent. The view from the top was also really good as the mountain is right on the edge of the Alps with views over France and higher snowy mountains in Switzerland.
2) Grintovec, Slovenia
This was very memorable but not so much for my result in the race. Grintovec is a 2500m high mountain in Slovenia which is basically a big steep lump of rock with forest on the lower slopes. The area we stayed in was pretty cool and very different to other parts of the Alps, more wilderness and fewer people. I’d heard there are a few hundred brown bears in Slovenia so while out running before the race I was trying to find some but didn’t manage. The weekend of the race was a heat wave with temperatures up to 40 degrees!
The race was one of the toughest I’ve done with a climb of 1900m in 9.5km on a rough path and exposed rocks. The heat made it almost unbearable and if I’d flown out from a Scottish summer to race in those conditions I wouldn’t have finished. My finish position was 4th which was nothing special but worth the trip anyway. It felt like you’d climbed a real mountain and it was really rewarding to stand at the top of such a big steep peak on a clear sunny day.
Possibly more demanding than the race was the 3 hour walk down the mountain back to the 40 degree heat. It was a long day out and a bit of an adventure. The mixed meat grill that me and Carla tried to eat at the prize giving was also an experience!
Grintovec mountain from halfway up
1) Sierre Zinal, Switzerland
This was definitely my best result of the year against one of the toughest fields I raced against. The race is a classic and it gets a world class field every year. Last year I had a disaster of a run and finished way back somewhere around 35th! I learned that it was a very special race and one that needs to be taken seriously. It’s a long race at over 30km and with about 2000m of ascent but there is a lot of fast running as well and that’s what makes it difficult.
On race day I knew that the 10 weeks of training in the Alps would provide me with the fitness to do well but getting the tactics right would be even more important. I set of steady on the first main ascent to leave plenty energy for the faster running in the second half. I moved through the field and caught lots guys who are better runners than me but hadn’t paced it so well. I passed runners from Eritrea, USA, Columbia, Spain, Italy and of course Switzerland to get in to 5th place. Crossing the finish line in 5th place with one of the quickest ever British times was the highlight of the year.
With plenty more hard work 2014 can be just as memorable.
- Sierre Zinal prize giving