A sentimental journey for me. Irvine were my club when I was a nipper and the race organiuser Andy Rennie was a clubmate. I met Andy a few times this year at the Polaroids and Troon and I had made myself a wee promise to run in this race. Marymass was always a family outing when I was a kid, the Saturday parade through the town, the horse racing on the Moor where my father would generally end up legless, and the"shows" on the golffields at night. Also the traditional Irvine Meadow v Irvine Vics football derby on the Friday. When I started running the Thursday night gala night always included the one mile championship of Ayrshire, a huge field on 4 laps of the old ash track at Quarry Rd. One sad thing for me, looking back, was that my parents never came to see me race as they had no car and on the days where races were local they were too involved in their bowling club to see me run.
Last night fixed that. I visited my sister and then my mother in the afternoon, and my son Andrew, disappeared off to Kilmarnock with his cousins to see them play football. I went to register for the race and then ran round to the start and went to see the finish as a warmup. My neice was bringing her kids and Andrew to the finish and I got a pleasant surprise when my mother and sister turned up at the start.
The race route itself was like a step back into my past. Registration at my old watering hole Irvine Sports club, then the start was near the aforementioned Irvine Vics ground just round from the church where I attended BBs. The race followed a route passing landmarks in my early lifetime; Gailes Golf club where I caddied, and played golf when the greenkeeper wasn't looking; the various pubs where the young Hall descended into a lifestyle not suited to the athlete I used to be; the harbour and beach where I walked, ran, swam and fished; the sawmill, now a new housing development, where my father was a driver, and the finish itself; yards from my first home, from birth to 5 years.
I phoned my neice to tell her where the finish was and told her it was on Harbour Street at the swingpark (this call made when I was still at registration). "There's no swings there " she replied. "Well there was when I was a kid" said the 51 year old! There's now a puffer boat on the quay where they used to be, part of the maritime museum. Funny how I still go up and down that road when I'm down visiting and never noticed.
Anyway, the race. I started off steadily enough, and then increased my leg speed as opposed to my usual driving my stride harder, and the change semed to make a huge difference. I got to 3 k in 12 .56 and 5k in 21.56. The course had a few gentle hills and one dip in the cycle track where it dropped to the level of a lower path before regaining it's height. They didn't cause me any problems until I hit the drop on the return journey where my legs turned to jelly. I eased off for a few strides and soon regained my stride pattern. A bit of wind as we ran past the Magnum into the breeze coming off the sea, and turning on to the harbourside at 9k I realised that with a bit of effort on the last K I could beat 44 minutes, which I hadn't done for a couple of years. I managed to finish strongly and my watch stopped on 43.40, unofficial as results haven't been posted yet. Delighted with that as it was the best run for ages, negative splits and emotionally, for me at least, a good place to have a good run. Even happier with the rousing reception my fan club gave me at the finish. Even more of them turned up at the Sports Club after the race, possibly alerted to the moths escaping from my wallet as I bought them all a drink afterwards!
Nice to get a blether with John Kynaston and to meet Mr and Mrs Pacepusher, Neal and Caroline Gibson. Hope to see a lot more of the WHW family in the future weeks and months.