by Lucie Noakes
At 6am I was rudely awoken by my alarm with the daunting thought that I would be taking on the mighty Goatfell Hill Race in approximately 6 hours’ time. My stomach turned as I felt both the nerves and excitement of what I imagined could be the hardest race I have ever done.
The journey consisted of rain, rain and more rain. At this stage I was tired, grumpy and lacking any form of enthusiasm. As the ferry approached Brodick though, the sun came out and lit up the Arran mountains including Goatfell which looked very monstrous!! I collected my race number from the Observation Lounge on the ferry which was buzzing full of experienced runners, young and old telling stories of their own hill racing adventures.
Unfortunately I was lacking the ‘Dunoon Hill Runners’ posse but I knew everyone would be cheering me on in their own way (in the comfort of their own bed probably!!) and thankfully I had my Dad there to support me.
We made our way to the Ormidale Pavilion in Brodick where I changed into my race kit and stood amongst all the crazy runners – me being one of them. It was at that moment that I started to question myself as I eyed up all the professional looking runners around me. “Am I really going to run up that hill?”. It genuinely looked massive but I had done a reasonable amount of hill training which would hopefully have done some good. I did however manage to sprain my ankle a week prior to the race which wasn’t ideal! Apart from that I really loved my training. It has shown me that my heart truly belongs in the hills.
Before I knew it I heard the “3, 2, 1 GO!” Adrenaline pumped all through my body as we shot off round the grassy track and onto the main road. It was a great atmosphere with the crowds cheering and pipers piping. I kept a steady pace but when I hit the road my legs were totally confused – they were ready for the hills, not the road!! Following the road was a long stony gradual path which, after the morning rain had a nice water feature running back down it.
The higher I got the more technical it became. I kept my head down to avoid being distracted by the beautiful scenery. The path disappeared into large boulders which is where the scrambling began.
My calves were screaming, my heart was racing and head was beginning to feel a little light. This is when the jelly babies surfaced out of my waist bag. You can never go wrong with a few jelly babies!!
Once the faster runners started to pass me down the hill I was given a much needed boost to reach the summit. One guy very kindly told me I only had a couple of minutes to go and amazingly he was right! It wasn’t long until I was at the top of Goatfell. What an amazing feeling getting to the top and knowing it was downhill all the way. I was looking forward to the incredible views but sadly the visibility was poor so I had no choice but to head back down. Oh! How do I go down again?
With jelly legs I began my descent. This is where full concentration was required and the downhill muscles were woken up. For me, the scary part was the uncontrollable feeling that one wrong step could put me in the back of the medic’s quad. It did sound an easier option but, of course, I wanted to finish the race. I passed one woman sitting on a rock surrounded by marshals with what looked like a nasty gash to her forehead. Unbelievably she was still laughing but that spooked me a little and it made me feel very thankful that I was still in one piece. My ankle managed to stay intact thanks to Elaine’s magic tape!! There were a few scary moments though where I caught my foot on a rock and flew a short distance with my arms flailing while my heart skipped a beat or two.
It was a speedy run down to the bottom. My legs were not for stopping and, to be honest, I can’t remember much of the downhill. I do however remember dragging my heavy legs along the never-ending road at the bottom. The sun was beating down, my tank was nearly empty but I was determined to get over that line and hopefully in a time under 2 hours. As I entered the stadium I felt a huge relief and rush of adrenaline. All I had to do was get those tired legs round the track and over the line. Sounds easy right…
I could have cried on the last lap, everything hurt and my head was spinning but the finish was within sight. I had been warned that the hardest part was on the flat at the end. With gritted teeth and all the strength I had left I got round the track and over the line where Dad was there waiting patiently to give me a big proud hug.
I absolutely love the overwhelming feeling of finishing a race, knowing that you’ve pushed yourself so hard and being completely knackered that you start to feel a bit drunk. There is no feeling quite like it.
I am so grateful that I have the ability to run on the hills. It makes me so happy and always leaves me striving for more. For me, it’s all about believing in yourself, saying I CAN do it and being able to prove everyone that ever doubted you, wrong.