I travelled down to the Ayrshire Riviera, on Wednesday 6th May, to participate in the 30th staging of the Troon 10k road race. It was also a chance to catch up with some Ayrshire running buddies, including Irvine’s David Millar, who advised me that the route had changed slightly this year and to watch out for the sharp right hand turn. Ron’s Runner, Neil McMullen asked me what time I was hoping for and I replied “43:15”, this was based on the fact that I hard worked really hard last year and, pushed on by a couple of running buddies, had managed to complete the course in 43:16. When I asked Neil the same question, he replied that he would be hoping for “sub 43 anyway”.
Of course, you can only run the race as it presents itself on the night and most times I’ve run Troon, it has been windy and wet. Tonight was to be slightly different as the predicted rain didn’t arrive but the wind did and it was strong. The final 1200m, into a headwind would be tough.
I had looked at the list of entrants prior to the race and noticed that although it had sold out, there didn’t seem to be as strong a field as usual, this was confirmed as I joined the 40min pen prior to the race, which was much quieter than in previous years.
As the race got underway, I tucked in behind, on fire, clubmate Bernie O’Neil and stayed there for the 1st kilometre, which took us 4:03. Of course the difference was that I couldn’t maintain the pace and dropped behind as the route moved inland. That said, I was still running relatively fast, with the 2nd kilometre taking 4:18. At this point, I decided not to look at my Garmin again but to concentrate, solely, on giving 100%.
I played leap frog with a number of runners over the next 2k, including Springburn’s Joe Chambers and Irvine’s Jim Sneddon and Scott Gourlay, before managing to leave them behind. I don’t know Scott and, for a while, I thought that his name must have also been Ian by the amount of people shouting the name but all the shouts must have been for me. I’m afraid that I was too focussed on my race to see who the supporters were but I can assure you that I appreciated every single shout.
At about 4k, Richard Leyton accidentally bumped into me as he passed, although it would have been good to have kept up with him, I knew that he is in the form of his life and that I’d be doing well to keep him in sight.
An hour before the race, I had drank a pint of water, so that I wouldn’t need to take on any at the drink station but at the last second I grabbed a paper cup, which burst in my hand, but gave me enough water to wet my tongue a little, which is all that was required. At this point the route deviated from previous years as we ran down the uneven surface around the local cemetery, including that sharp right turn.
With the municipal golf course on our left, I managed to catch East Kilbride’s Kelly Baillie at 6k. The next kilometre took us along Harling Drive and left onto Golf Crescent. As the crow flies, this is the closest point to the race HQ and a lot of supporters had gathered there, including many shouting my name as I ran past.
The 8th k was tough, both mentally and physically, but Richard was still in sight and I was, more than a little, surprised to find myself closing in on Neil McMullen. I always know that I’m in the final part of this race when we reach the incline at the end of Fullarton Drive and turn right, over the railway bridge, on Craigend Road. I overtook Neil at this point but not for long, as he soon returned the compliment.
At the end of the road, we turned right, back along the seafront, there was 1200m to go and it was all into the strong headwind. However although I was shattered, I was also heartened to see that Neil, Richard and Kilmarnock’s Lindsay McMahon were all in sight, not catchable but all in sight.
In the final strait, edged on by the screaming supporters, not least of all Kirstie, Caroline and Andy Cochrane, I managed to catch Stevie Crawford and hold off a strong challenge from Ayr’s Gael Riddle, to cross the line in 91st place (out of 993 finishers), with a time of 42:53 (last year I placed 119 th out of 881 finishers).
I had well and trully smashed my 43:15 target for the night and was pleased as punch. This was one of my best ever performances, my best 10k in five years, my best ever at Troon and my highest ever WAVA at 75.86%!
As I congratulated those around me and vice versa, I realised that Sarah Munn had also been on my tail but she just couldn’t catch me this time.
As predicted, Cambuslang’s Stuart Gibson had won the race, with a time of 31:38, Irvine’s David Millar being runner up, in 32:55, with Ayr’s Kenny Neil placing third in 34:36. Brian Douglas being the best placed Bellahouston Harrier, finishing seventh in 35:39.
Neil McMullen had finished strongly and well under his 43min target, placing 84th in 42:23.
In the women’s event, favourite Kara Tait of Kilmarnock didn’t dissapoint with a time of 36:31, more than 30secs ahead of runner up Lesley Chisholm of Garscube (37:02) and Laura Wallace, Ayr Seaforth (38:10). Keeping it in the family, Bernie O’Neill was the best placed Bella, finishing sixth in a great time of 40:59. Bernie was also the first FV45, followed by Shona Donnelly (44:46) and Sylvia Mulholland, with a PB of 45:16.
Ayr Seaforth won the team prize, with twin sisters, Laura Wallace and Toni McIntosh, being joined on the podium by Gael Riddle.
pics by Kenny Phillips
Many thanks to Troon Tortoises for staging such a great, well organised, event and to all the supporters and fellow runners who made the race that wee bit special.