29th Jul to 2nd Aug
The Tour of Fife consists of five short races in five days at various locations in Fife. The races are all a bit different. I have done the Tour once before in 2011 and loved it and I had always planned to go and run it again. There are no prizes for each individual race, it is the overall times which count towards the prize giving after the last event. The number of entrants is limited to about 180, but only about 155 turned out. The five races can only be done by Tour entrants, so you start to recognise most people after a few days.
Race 1 The Chariots of Fire 4.2m
This year the Tour started with a classic race, the Chariots of Fire race along the West Sands of St. Andrews. I loved it last time I did the Tour in 2011 and I loved it again tonight. There was a great view of St. Andrews from the beach. The amazingly big stands from the Open golf tournament were still there, but I guess they will go soon.
After three days of running and walking the lovely Fife Coastal path, we were a bit unsure about how we would do, would there be much left in our legs ? Before the start we had the music from the film coming out of loudspeakers ! We started very slowly on this out and back route entirely on sand. We found our legs weren’t too bad so after the first mile or so and we gradually started to increase our pace and overtook people. However, we were slowed by the sand getting softer and softer.
We turned the corner at the end of the beach and to my surprise the turn around point this year wasn’t in the sea, so I need not have put on a pair of old trail shoes.
On the way out the breeze had been in our faces, but it was behind us on the way back and we made good time on the way back on the firm sand.
Everybody was very friendly and the first person who approached us used to work in Durham and lived in St. Marys, where I now work ! The next person recognised us from the Northumberland Coastal Run !
A lovely way to spend a summer evening
Race 2: Hill of Tarvit 3.1m
This race was in the schedule when I last did the tour in 2011. Then it was 4.25m and three laps. This year’s race was 3.1m and one lap which sounded more attractive. However in 2011 we didn’t go up to the top of the big hill on the estate.
We met a friend of Jon’s tonight who also did the Elvet Striders Clamber last week, it is a small world. Then somebody who also did the Northumberland Coastal run just over a week ago. The runners were are very friendly and welcoming.
The first couple of miles were fast and furious and hardly undulating at all. Melanie was setting quite a pace and I couldn’t keep up, so I was slowly losing ground as we turned into the woods and started the very large climb to the top of the hill. There was a stile to cross and long grass to negotiate and some very upset sheep, but once we got to the top the view was fantastic. The plunge down to the finish was steep and potentially dangerous, but we had no problems and finished with a reasonable time considering the hill.
Race 3: Uphell Time Trial 1.4m
This is only the second uphill time trial I have ever done, the other one being the same event four years ago.
The logistics are a bit complicated. Everybody has to park at the top and run down to the bottom of the hill to start in pairs at your published start time. Last I underestimated how long it would take to run down and I was a bit late – they managed to slot me when someone didn’t show. I made sure I got there with time to spare this year.
The weather was awful when we parked at the top, driving rain, windy, it felt like November. Luckily as we set off down to the start, the rain stopped and wind dropped a bit.
Melanie was starting 4min after me and I half expected to get caught, although she was a bit anxious about a hip problem which she could feel on the way down the hill.
I started slowly, at least I thought I did. My partner slipped behind and that also made me think I was possibly going too fast (we were paired roughly according to speed, but the faster and slower pairs were spread evenly between the first and last starting times). By the time I got to 800m (the distances were chalked on the road), I was blowing hard and I continued like that until the finish.
There was great support from runners running down to start their race, the two fastest runners were particularly encouraging. I decided to just hang on and keep running even if I slowed right down. Faster runners were going by me making it look very easy.
As we got closer to the finish runners who had already finished were shouting, clapping, ringing cowbells, clattering pans and blowing whistles, a great atmosphere. There was also a piper and the race organiser on a PA.
I managed to get to the finish without being caught by Melanie, but she did come in with a faster time than me – her hip wasn’t an issue on the way up. I was about 45 sec slower than 4 years ago, but I don’t think I had done so much exercise during the week as we have been doing this time [I think it’s something to do with pretending to be an aeroplane, personally. – Ed.].
A relentless event, but definitely worth doing (but only every four years !)
Race 4: Cambo Estate 4m
This race was only about a mile and half from where we are staying so it was great not having to drive too far. It was a very warm day although there was a steady breeze to cool us down.
The route was two laps through the Cambo Estate grounds. It was mainly on narrow trails through woods, although there was one section through a field of cows who got a bit scared on the first lap. They were nowhere to be seen on lap 2.
We started steadily and once through the cow field we started to pick up a few places. However, after about 1.5m I suddenly felt there was nothing much left in my legs. Almost certainly the cumulative effect of one of the busiest weeks for exercise that I have done for some time. This morning’s relatively fast parkrun was probably not a good idea, but I wouldn’t have missed it. People who I had overtaken started to pass me and all I could do was plod on as best as I could for the next 2.5m (except for a little showboating for the cameras), just waiting for the finish.
A nice feature of the Tour is that there are three or four photographers there every day who post their pictures on FB and Fife ACs web site and they are happy for them to be copied.
Melanie did much better than me, I lost places to people I had been close to before today, but Melanie gained places on people she had been close to. She also hit the wall like me, but much closer to the finish.
Race 5: Mega Monirail Marvel 4.2m
The final race, 4.2m. Basically up a quiet road for 0.5m before turning onto a track which climbed and climbed for the next 1.5m or so. After a while the track turned into grassy fields and we made our way to the highest point next to a radio mast.
Then it was almost all downhill on track but with a few muddy patches before it turned into tarmac for the finish.
I started pretty much at the back as I didn’t think I had much in my legs. I did overtake a few, but I ended up roughly where I was yesterday 116th out of 153. Melanie did great 80th. Over the five races I was 108th and Melanie 91st and we were both happy with that after a busy week.
At the finish almost all the runners had stayed to cheer everybody in and there was a great atmosphere. We were lucky with weather again, it started to rain just as the last runner came into the finish. This seems to have happened just as we have finished our runs, walks and races this week. Not to hot, just perfect weather for exercising.
We then went down to the Village Hall for sandwiches and cake – we had all been asked to bring a contribution to the food, a great idea, and there was lots to eat. This was followed by the presentations and spot prizes – we weren’t lucky this time. One woman who had been doing well but had felt a bit dizzy and unwell had had to walk into the finish. If she had continued she would have been third woman but lost her place because of feeling unwell. They gave her bottle of wine which was nice gesture.
The whole event was lovely and we enjoyed it. Hopefully we shall be back for my third Tour.