No I wasn’t running but I was there watching and cheering on some friends. The Alloa Half Marathon is an extremely well-organised and popular half marathon. So much so that entries were closed at 2000 runners a number of weeks before the race. It represents all that is best about running – an interesting route and something for everyone no matter their ability, age, fitness or anything else. I was pleased to see a chap who runs the Edinburgh parkrun taking part – he is in the 75-79 age category and he certainly put me to shame. The pre-race buzz got to me and I started wishing that I had entered. I felt firmly out of it as fellow runners discussed their injuries, training, time targets, race strategy and joked with each other. I admired a wide variety of club t-shirts. My favourite was the Kirkintilloch Olympians – what a fantastic name for a club! The Leisure Bowl sports centre near the start was struggling to accommodate the numbers and the fact that the toilets had an entry door at each side provided some rich comedy. There were queues at both doors and queues inside as people needed a number 1 or number 2. It was generally patient and good-humoured but the wait was clearly too long for one runner who informed his team-mate “Ah’m gawing ootside tae find a large bush!”
Before long and bang on time the mayor or mayoress prepared to start the race. I want to call her the mayoress because she is of mature years. And clearly that starting pistol doesn’t get any lighter. As it wavered alarmingly provoking a minute of panic among those near her she finally wrested control, pointed it to the skies and emptied both barrels.
I can tell you three things about Alloa. It has a 15th Century Tower, a football team nicknamed the “Wasps” who have had a decent season and there is a dearth of decent coffee shops on a Sunday morning. There is one on the High Street but it was full to overflowing and the prospect of getting to the front of the queue just as the scones ran out put me off joining the sizeable queue. It was a decent day for running but definitely windy and I felt sorry for the runners who would have a westerly wind in their faces on the long straight from Tillycoultry to Menstrie. But it clearly wasn’t a problem for the first runner home who clocked 1 hours 9 minutes 31 seconds. Very impressive indeed. We cheered our friends home. They all did very well in terms of times and performances. The mayoress resplendent with her magnificent gold chain of office, bless her, stayed beside the finishing line clapping the runners home. The only complaint I heard was that the 13 mile marker was considerably more than .1 of a mile from the finish. That might sound a small thing but at that stage of the run it becomes a big thing. The guy making the comment advised the official to do something with his measuring implement that was neither very pleasant or indeed physically possible. All too soon it was time to head back to Edinburgh. We lunched in Tillycoultry but it was a bit disappointing. I rather fear that chicken died in vain.