Official time: 25 mins 21 secs
Finish position: 69th/201
Age Group position: 23rd/50
As far as races go, this was probably one of the least enjoyable experiences that I’ve had so far for a variety of reasons. The Nuffield Jogscotland 5k Challenge is a series of races which take place in the larger cities and towns across Scotland and are marketed towards the newer runner, corporate groups or people doing their very first race. There was a large group of us from Fetch heading along so Kynon and I decided to join in for the fun thinking it would be a pleasant way to spend a summer’s evening with friends.
Now obviously nothing could have been done about the weather, but unfortunately nearly everything else about the race was shoddily organised. After signing up online we received no further information about the event other than what was available on the website (the race started at 7pm in Hazlehead Park – a very large park in Aberdeen). The website stated that detailed instructions would be sent out by email before the event, however when it got to 4pm on the day and nothing had been heard, I decided to call JogScotland HQ. I’ve done enough races to know that if I turned up an hour beforehand I’d have no problem finding the start and getting myself sorted out, but I was irked enough by the lack of communications both by email and on the JogScotland Facebook page that I decided to call them anyway to see what they had to say. I was put through three different people on the phone before I could get someone with an answer which was: Just turn up. When pressed about the lack of communication they responded that ‘Someone was supposed to do it, but then they were off and it kind of didn’t happen’. Really?! From a locally organised club race that might be an acceptable excuse, but JogScotland is a national running organisation with full time staff and if I’m paying to attend one of your events then I expect more.
There were many people calling the JogScotland HQ and local running shops looking for information which they were then posting on the JogScotland Facebook Wall to help clueless runners. The Facebook Page had been deluged with queries and complaints including some from people who had never raced before and were confused and nervous about the event. There was, and as yet still has not been, a response from JogScotland about the lack of pre-race information.
We arrived at 6pm to collect our packets and hoped there would not be long queues. The Scottish Summer remained true to form and less than a fortnight after complaining about running in 28C heat, I had my winter running gear back on again as we were faced with temperatures of 8C, a nasty wind, sideways rain and heavy fog when we left the car.
Packet pick-up was in some tents and there was also a burger van and a bag drop. Pre-race entertainment was provided which consisted of an aging pub singer in a silver flared catsuit and blonde 70s wig, singing along to a backing track in a portable trailer stage. I say ‘entertainment’ in the loosest possible sense; our enthusiastic chanteuse never got any closer to the notes she ought to have been singing than a minor 2nd below.
Undeterred, we went to find the start which was somewhere in here:
7pm came and went and there was not a single indication of when the race would actually start. Thankfully we had rounded up all of our friends and were able to have a laugh about it all whilst sheltering from the rain.
Finally, after a 20 minute delay we were herded towards the gantry; a man with a megaphone mumbled something unintelligible and suddenly we were running. It was a wild stampede across the field reminiscent of High School Cross Country; I decided that I wanted this over as fast as possible so I would just run all out and throw away any thoughts of smart pacing – especially as the race was obscuring my Garmin anyway!
Mile 1: 9:01 (all uphill)
Mile 2: 8:14
Mile 3: 7:47 (all downhill)
The route was mainly on trails and grass through Countesswells Woods which suited me just fine, however I suspect some fragile souls may well have been traumatised by having to skirt around vast archipelagos of horse poo floating in the giant puddles. It was really just a case of head down and go for me so I have little to report from the race itself other than the course looked like it was very nice and I want to explore up there one day when it’s not pouring with rain. Unfortunately due to bad course marking and a lack of marshalls, the lead pack got lost in the second mile and ended up passing the main contingent again at great speed when they found their way again. Thankfully I’m not fast enough to have those problems but was able to hang on to the feet and neon jackets of those in front of me, who at times were only just visible in the thick fog.
Upon crossing the finish line I was expecting a t-shirt, goody bag and medal as promised; however at the time it appeared that there would be nothing for us other than water and bananas. No-one wanted to hang around so we quickly dispersed; and thankfully noticed on our way back to the car that goody bags, t-shirts and medals were being dispersed at the same tent as registration which was away from the route back to the carparks. Again – there was no communication at the finish line to indicate this at all!
I don’t normally run in a full face of make-up but given that I’d come from work I had my usual eyeliner/mascara etc on; this obviously ended up streaked down my face in the pouring rain creating a marvellous look. We quickly made an exit and got home as fast as possible to warm up and dry off, feeling somewhat disillusioned with the whole experience, although glad to have had some fun with our friends.
So to summarise the improvements required; COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION! It is so important in all aspects of life and something which should be an enjoyable experience can quickly become confusing and frustrating for participants if they don’t know what’s going on. I do believe JogScotland may have had some factors working against them which caused the delays (slow confirmation of set-up location from Aberdeen City Council, a traffic accident by the park entrance which delayed the start) so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but there was no reason why this could not have been relayed to the runners. I know they’ve been organising these races for quite some time and my friends have always had good experiences so something doesn’t quite add up. I feel sorry for those who may have been doing this as their very first race however; it is really not an accurate reflection of organised racing in Scotland so I do hope they’re not put off!