Livingston Half Marathon Sunday 11th February
Reading the weather report the night before, I knew it was going to be a cold day. Sub- zero temperatures overnight and freezing at race start. I packed my kit the night before, I was definitely wearing tights just debating on wearing either thermal layer with t-shirt or t-shirt with running jumper. It’s been really cold in Scotland this winter and I am used to a little frost and snow which didn’t put me off for race day.
In the morning, the frost didn’t look too bad in Galashiels, so I made my way to Livingston. Once I arrived, I registered and got my race number. It was really frosty and cold. The sun was shining so I was hopeful a lot of the frost would melt before we started. I opted for thermal layer with t-shirt as I knew once I got going I would be warm enough. I stayed in my car as long as possible to stay warm and ten minutes before the start made my way to the start.
I knew today was going to be cold and a little frosty, so I decided to treat the event as a training run rather that a race. I wanted to make it to the end intact rather than in A&E.
The start was up a hill on a tarmac path, I was sliding all over the place as well as many other competitors around me. That’s when I started to worry slightly; I had new-ish trainers on, only a month old, so surely, they still have grip?! I made it to the start still upright and ready to run. We had a brief warning by the start marshal about the frost and ice, including the large icy puddle over the start line. We were told to be careful and some areas were gritted.
A few minutes after the briefing, we started, never have I felt so keen to start as it was so cold! After avoiding the frozen puddle on the start line, the race route started by going down the slippery hill I had just walked up. I took this very easy, slipping but managing to stay upright. After the hill, I managed to ease into the race and get into a comfortable pace.
The race goes along the paths and underpasses of Livingston. None of the race is along roads, making the course quite narrow. This meant the first couple of miles the path was quite congested, but once the field spread out it was much easier to pass others.
Photo stolen from Livingston Run
Along the first six miles I was able to find some grass verge to run along instead of the tarmac. Pretty much 95% of the course was on tarmac. I usually don’t have a problem with that but with the frost and sub- zero temperatures it made the course like an ice rink.
I did, at some points, have thoughts of stopping but I had started and already decided to use this race as a training run to avoid injury. I was convincing myself the conditions would get better as it was getting later in the day and the sun was shining.
I was wrong! It actually got worse; the route became more residential so there was less and less grass verges and more subways and underpasses. This is when I fell. On my first fall I slid and landed on my bottom, no harm and I was up and away again. My second, and worst fall, was around mile ten; I slipped and fell on my knees. Before I realised I hit the floor, I was back running after a lovely man running next to me, in a red top, practically caught me and lifted me back up. Thank you man in the red top! All the other competitors around me were all very kind and checking I was ok, even a couple of miles later. I was wearing thick tights so didn’t realise I cut my knees until after the race.
Photo stolen from Run Livingston. The man in the red top that saved me!
After this fall I did lose my confidence and felt on edge, I slowed my pace and was a lot more cautious. As the course became more undulating with steeper descents it just felt like the ice got worse and worse. I was holding railings and walking down descents so I wouldn’t fall. The last two miles felt like it went on and on. All I wanted to do was finish so I wouldn’t injure myself, I wasn’t enjoying the run.
I was very relieved when I saw the stadium; the finish was inside Livingston Tony Macaroni Football Arena. The finish was disappointing, full of bystanders and rubbish, in and outside the grounds. Only large t-shirts left and marshals were not handing out the t-shirts or drinks to finishers. When I looked down at my watch I had only run 12.8miles, so the route was short. I checked online when I got home and many other runners also thought the race was short.
Photo stolen from Run Livingston. Usually I keep my eyes open when running. I must work on my photo finish!
This was Livingston’s first half marathon event; I would normally enjoy this race as the route itself was undulating, challenging and interesting. Essentially the whole course was an ice rink, pretty fitting that speed skater Elise Christie is from Livingston after all!
Nobody can predict or help the weather, which isn’t the race organisers fault. People would have been upset if they did or didn’t cancel the race. Many competitors stated online they did not finish as they thought it was too unsafe. I felt the course was very treacherous and dangerous. It should have been gritted and properly inspected beforehand, particularly at the underpasses. Maybe a later start would have been better.
Overall it wasn’t my race day. I took the risk of starting the race and the organisers did warn us of the ice. I’ve never raced in conditions like this before and in the future I may decide not to run. With every new event there are always teething problems, but I would definitely make sure the course was long enough for next year and maybe have a good technical t-shirt rather than a cheap cotton t-shirt and cheap medal. I would run this event again but definitely not in those conditions.