Run Livingston 10K
Distance: 10km (6.2 miles)
Terrain: Tarmac paths (covered in ice on this occassion)
Start: West Lothian College car park, Livingston, EH54 7EP
Finish: Almondvale Stadium, Livingston, EH54 7DN
Elevation Gain: 88m (289ft)
Total Finishers: 261
First Finishers Time: 00:40:49
Last Finishers Time: 01:49:49
Entry Price: £20.00
Water Stations: 1
Chipped: Yes (ankle bracelet)
Notable Sträva Segment: Ochiltree downhill -4% gradient – would be nice and fast in safer conditions
Next Race: TBC
The Route and Elevation
Date & Time: Sunday 11th February 2018 09:15am
I haven’t done a chipped timed race since the GSR 5k in January 2012. I haven’t done a chipped timed 10k since 2006, which I did in around 58 minutes after promising to pace my Dad to a sub 1 hour 10k, which he completed in 58:28. Go Dad! My race PB for 10k is 54:42, from the Glasgow Women’s 10k in 2004. I’ve been consistently running between 49 – 52 minutes outside for this distance, and as fast as 47:00 on a treadmill. Although I didn’t know the route, I know Livingston, having lived there for 6 ½ years. I was confident I was going to at least get a new PB from this race, even if I didn’t break the 50 minute barrier.
Unfortunately this was not to be. I ended up with my slowest official 10k time by over 23 minutes (that’s longer than it takes me to run Parkrun now!) I had thought the worst case scenario was not getting a PB. Turns out the worst case scenario was a trip to A & E. Not for me thankfully, but for a few unlucky runners, one of whom I saw fall and get a nasty head wound. Half a dozen other people were helping her, and I made sure a marshal was on their way to the incident before heading off again. I later found out through the Running Friends Scotland Facebook group that she had a black eye and needed 2 stitches, but was back running again just over a week later.
You may be looking at the first finisher’s time and thinking this must be a tough course. Over 40 minutes getting first place: that must have serious hills, or be multi-terrain, or involve some scrambling or something? No, but a pair of ice skates would have helped in several places. To be fair to the organisers, they have no control over the weather, and it’s a difficult call whether or not to cancel a race. A lot of people would have complained if it had been cancelled. People willingly chose to run after seeing the state of the car park. But when marshals are telling you to hold onto the railings going downhill so you don’t fall, you know conditions are far from ideal. It had rained, and then frozen over, and parts were sheet ice. To make matters even worse, the sun made visibility bad so I couldn’t see where the most dangerous bits were without shielding my eyes (that bit was my own fault for not having a running visor).
The route itself actually has the potential to be a PB route. The route involves taking in the sights of Livingston city centre, and the housing estates of Howden, Dedridge and Murieston, with a nice section along the almond river and small sections in forested areas. Most of it though was on tarmac paths and like most new towns, Livingston was built to keep cars and pedestrians separate, so the paths were not next to roads, except on small sections. The views of the housing estates are not the most interesting or scenic, and the paths are pretty narrow. The sections by the riverside were prettier but also narrow. If you’re looking for beautiful scenery to get you in the zone then pick a different 10k, or maybe a trail run. But the paths are mostly flat and fast. They were not closed to other users (much like Parkrun) so I had a wee dog yipping at me at one point. I wouldn’t have minded usually, but I was trying very hard not to fall on ice at that point so it was rather distracting.
Walking to the start line, we saw that it was covered in sheet ice. However, the MC told us to be careful at the start and on the hill, but that the course was looking good. Not wanting a DNF, or to have to just hang around for 2 hours whilst my friends did the half, I decided to see if conditions improved. They didn’t, for much of the race. I’d already told Charlotte I wasn’t going for a time, after seeing the state of the car park, but I hadn’t realised quite how true that would be. After slipping (and shrieking) on the first downhill out of the college, I headed for the grass where possible as you could at least get some traction on it. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of grass, and it was also squelchy – resulting in me getting mud inside my shoes quite early on. Never a great feeling. I ran past several people whilst on the grass, and then had to let them past me as I got very tentative on the paths after slipping again and seeing other people fall or have near misses. At around the one mile point a lady slipped going uphill round a corner, and took a serious smack to the head. Another runner about 10 seconds ahead of me was trying to lift her up and got her head about 6 inches off the ground. There was a lot of blood there, and so someone got their phone out, another lady turned back and started shouting for a marshal, and a third lady donated her running jacket to try and stem the flow. I headed off slowly in the right direction shouting for a marshal and made sure the marshal heading towards me knew what was happening. I was very happy to find out via Facebook the following day that she was fine asides from a massive shiner and a couple of stitches. Turned out she wasn’t the only one needing a trip to A & E that day, with a few people posting about their scrapes and falls.
I’d already been going very slowly due to the conditions, and was already near the back of the field, but that made me just want to get around in one piece. I have 4 more races coming up before the end of May and getting round uninjured was pretty high on my list of priorities. I took it really easy, shouted out “ice” warnings at particularly treacherous parts (lots of runners were doing this and the shouts would go down the line like we were a regiment of disciplined but terrified army recruits).
At around 4.5 miles (7.2 km), something strange happened. Guys started going past us, fast, like actually running around 9 or 10 miles per hour, occasionally slipping but just rolling with it and shouting out advice to each other on where to watch out. I checked their race numbers and saw they were half marathon runners. I was being overtaken by half marathoners on their 11th mile. I got out of their way and shouted congratulations to them. Brave guys! I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry though. Was I just a complete wuss? Or were they reckless? Or maybe just experienced enough to know how to handle the conditions? This was just after a 30 metre downhill to an underpass where the marshal told us to hold onto the metal railing so as not to fall (so of course I slid part way down and shrieked, again), so the speed they were going at seemed impossible to me.
Somewhere between 5 and 5.5 miles (8-8.9 km) there was a fairly long section which was not icy and I managed to get my pace below 8 minutes a mile. This made me happy, until I slid again. The constant sliding, walking very slowly – crouching in some places and holding onto things for balance, and squelching through frosty, muddy, grass, had really taken it out of me even though I never broke a sweat. It was mentally exhausting. I also discovered that 10k is a really long way if you have to be very careful of conditions all the way and are unable to run more than 20 metre stretches before hitting a new patch of ice.
Going into the stadium the photographer took my photo and the marshals told me to mind the ice. I said I’d been minding it all the way round, to which they laughed and said I was a good minder. Getting into the stadium was great because it was safe to run in! I may have done a hilariously bad time, but I did clock 13.3mph on my final 30 metre sprint for the finish! My Garmin said 1:21:48 and my chip time was 1:21:47.
Some folk complained bitterly about the conditions, and some people really enjoyed the race. Most people did not get a PB, but looking at the results I’d say the vast majority of people didn’t slow down close to the degree that I did due to the conditions. I guess I have a lot to learn about running in adverse conditions. I heard that a lot of runners were rude to the marshals, and I feel really badly about that. They’re volunteering their time, and had no control over the conditions, or whether or not the race would still go ahead in those conditions. I don’t think I was rude to anyone, but I’m a bit sorry that I didn’t go out of my way to thank them as I passed.
My result and kit
I finished with an official time of 1:21:47 in 240th position. I was pretty gutted about that, because I’d wanted to get a good 10k out of the way before the Smokies 10 mile race in March. I couldn’t count this as anything other than a crazy adventure, and maybe a lesson in humility. I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience, but it was definitely a memorable one.
I ran in Mizuno Wave Rider 20 running shoes. I wore Nike Legend running tights, a Moving Comfort sports bra, Camprio Sports long sleeved base layer, Reebok muscle tank top, Arbroath Footers buff, and Feetures socks. I used a Garmin Vivoactive HR activity tracker to monitor my run.
This was definitely a memorable experience for me, but mostly not for the right reasons. I felt as if all my training (and particularly bothering to taper for the race) had been pointless and I should have been focussing on the 10 milers coming up. However, it does make for a memorable experience and a better tale to tell than “It was a fast if not particularly scenic course, and I knocked a few minutes off my PB”, which is what the report probably would have been under good conditions. You get a medal and t-shirt at the end. The medal was wooden, which is unusual, but I don’t really care much about medals. The t-shirt is cotton so is no good for training in, but is nice enough.
As a side note, my amazing friend Charlotte won the Women’s Half Marathon in a time of 1:37:18, despite thinking she was going to have to be careful, and falling a couple of times. That takes grit and determination, and I was really impressed by her performance.
I don’t think I would do this race again, at least not in these conditions. If I’d wanted to avoid obstacles for 10k and squelch through mud I’d have signed up for a trail run or tough mudder. But at a different time of year or time of day, or at least under better weather conditions, this has the potential to be a PB course, and as such I’ll reserve final judgement. A lot of people (including me) had a bit of a moan about it on a large running Facebook group, but some people really enjoyed it, embraced the fear and had amazing races.
*All info based on the 2018 race. Click here to visit the Run Livingston 10k event website
Paths generally away from road
Not the most interesting or scenic route
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