RUNNING BESIDE ME BLOG – FoxTrail Winter Series – Race 4
FoxTrail is the Winter Running series based in and around the beautiful Foxlake Adventures in Dunbar, East Lothian. The five race series, set to the backdrop of East Lothian’s most iconic beaches, estuaries and coastline, will be centred primarily on the East Neuk of the county between Lochhouses and Belhaven beach, utilising what must be some of the most scenic trail routes in the country.
running, Scotland, sports, trail running, winter, night race, outdoors, event, fun, foxlake, foxtrail, cold, event, challenge
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RUNNING BESIDE ME BLOG – FoxTrail Winter Series – Race 4

By Owain Williams

Yesterday was the 4th race of the Foxtrail Winter Series and Mandy and I headed to North Berwick for the races. I was racing the 10k while Mandy was taking on the 5k. I’ve said it in previous blogs but I love how they have incorporated the 5k races in to the winter series. It allows people who maybe haven’t ran trails before to get a good introduction to what they could expect. The races are really friendly and I’ve started to recognise faces and getting to know new people or put faces to names from people I chat to on Twitter. I have to apologise though if I don’t remember your names, I’m useless with names!

We arrived at the farm where the races started and collected our race numbers inside one of the barns. The event team had been very thoughtful and taken outdoor heaters to the barn which did give us a bit of warmth on a cold January morning.

After spotting a couple of friends and having a quick chat with them I pulled on my trail shoes and went for a warm up. I like to run the last mile of the course so that I know what to expect but I decided to head out along the first mile this time and I had my reasons. The last time I raced a 10k race during this series I was left for dead pretty quickly. It was a night race and I wasn’t sure about the terrain, where to run, and my heart rate shot up as soon as the race started. I didn’t want that to happen again, I wanted to be in control of the race this time.

I ran the first mile, turned around and ran back to the barn to meet Mandy and wish her a great race. I mentioned it was pretty muddy in places but I hoped she would just enjoy it. I’m sure she will blog about her race at some point but lets just say, she didn’t dodge the puddles and she probably got more mud on her than I did!

Once her race had started we had our race briefing. I did my final race preparations and then placed my foot firmly on the start line. There was a bit of banter on the line which was great.  We started in the doorway of the barn and someone behind asked which way do we go. The official course was out the barn door and turn right but I tried to convince them that it was out the door and turn left. It was worth a try!

Then the hooter which starts the race went off but it was just a test. I swear I was almost away down the track! It wasn’t long though until we were off and I shot out of the barn door like a whippet chasing a hare. I wasn’t hanging about and I wanted to set the pace from the start.

I knew the first mile had a couple of twists and sharp turns in it and so I wanted to be clear of any possible congestion or bottlenecks. I wanted to be able to go wide on the turns to get a clean line through the gates without having to slow down too much and it worked. A small group of us ran hard for the first mile and got through the gates and narrow sections unscathed.

The first mile popped up on my watch in 5:32 which I felt really comfortable with and I fully expected that to slow up now that we were on the muddy trails.

I was in my element though, running through icy puddles, marshes, dodging tree roots and branches. I could hear one or two people behind me but I was leading and feeling good.

By mile 3 it was just me and one other runner but I wasn’t sure if it was Craig or someone else. Craig and I have one point between us in the series and we are really closely matched but I knew there had been a younger guy running who had started the race well with us. On one of the corners I managed to have a quick look to my side and I could see the younger guy had dropped off the pace and so I now knew it was Craig and I knew he wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

Every time I attacked a climb, he would match me. If I dropped the pace slightly he would drop off as well. We weren’t racing against the course or a time, we were racing against each other and I’ve really enjoyed learning how to run like this over the past 4 races. It’s a completely different way of running. There are games being played, you are trying to find a weakness in your competitor which you can take advantage of.

Unfortunately this game came to an abrupt end though, with about 2 miles to go I noticed I couldn’t hear anyone behind me. I wasn’t sure what had happened, all I knew was I was running on my own out front. I later heard that he had pulled his hamstring and had to pull out of the race. I wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him at the next race.

With the marshals telling me I was running well and there was no-one behind me I had two choices, ease up a bit and cruise home or keep on pushing. I decided to keep on racing.

I got to the second last climb and we had been warned of the steep decent on the other side. I’m glad they did warn us because it was almost a sheer drop! If it hadn’t been frozen I think I may have tried to run straight down it but instead I tried to zigzag my way down. Just as I started going down I heard a snap and felt a sharp pain in my ankle. Instant panic hit me! I didn’t know how far behind me 2nd place was and I had just twisted my ankle with less than a mile to go.

I decided to just get down the hill and try and run on it, if the pain was too much then I would walk but thankfully the pain didn’t get any worse and there was only one more uphill section to run.

I turned the corner and could hear Mandy shouting encouragement and this spurred me on up the hill and back on the farm road back in to the barn.

Ali Wyllie won the ladies race and finished 9th overall. She’s the founder of @RuntheSights and is always really friendly. Thanks for the good luck chat before the race Ali.

The next race is a half marathon and if I thought yesterday’s race was tough, I have heard the half is even harder and, in a strange way, I’m really looking forward to it!

Thanks to all the event team for putting on another great event. Thanks to the land owners who let us run around their fields, you have some fantastic trails on your door step. Thanks to everyone who took part in the races, you make it a really enjoyable and friendly experience and finally, thanks to Mandy who looked after me last night as I hobbled around feeling sorry for myself! I’m rubbish at being injured!