Friday June 21st was the longest day of the year and the date of the Black Rock 5 race. This summer evening race is held in Kinghorn, a small town on the Fife coast. The ‘5’ race is neither 5 kilometers nor 5 miles in distance but is an out and back 4 and a bit mile loop with a twist and has all the ingredients that make running special.
I had heard about this race a few years back and everyone I spoke to said it would be memorable, not necessarily enjoyable, but certainly memorable !
Kinghorn like many coastal towns is a fishing town made up of a narrow collection of houses hugging the edge of the cliffs looking seawards. Houses have great views from their elevated position. Starting under the railway viaduct, the initial street section of the route is pretty straightforward and the streets are lined with well wishers cheering you on, giving the race a really friendly atmosphere. But early appearances are deceptive as after an easy first mile you reach the beach and it becomes a different kind of race.
Dropping onto the beach through a short section of soft sand the race route heads towards the Black Rock across the tidal flats. Running in this kind of wet sand was new to me and although I have had my fair share of running through mud this winter, this was a different sensation. You are running across ridged sand and receding water and it takes a bit of getting used to, but once I accepted my wet feet I quite enjoyed it and managed to keep to a steady pace. Approaching the Black Rock, with the satisfaction of a turning point, I was pleased that my legs felt better I had expected.
Even with stories from friends who had done the race in previous years, it was a race full of surprises, maybe it is one of those events that is hard to describe and you just have to be there ! I must admit I did not expect the circuit around Black Rock to be a water section and by that I mean running knee deep through waves, but on the up side it was a chance to walk for a bit and catch my breath, and I thought of my splashing through Scottish sea water as a kind of ice bath treatment .
The scenery and setting does take your mind off the effort, as it is quite magical seeing the snake of runners make their way across the sand to the Black Rock, against the backdrop of Edinburgh’s city skyline across the Forth. And to add to the magic there was a Piper playing on the rock as you made your way round the half way point. Pipers are quite often a feature of Scottish races as distance markers, but this one had the edge and I guess like the rest of us he was keeping his fingers crossed that we all made it round the rock before the tide came in !
Once round the rock you are heading for home, and a further mile of sand running takes you back to the streets and the return leg through the town. It was another new feeling to experience jelly legs running on the road after sand, maybe made extra wobbly thinking that I still had to get back uphill.
There is plenty of encouragement from local residents cheering from gardens along the route, that takes you back through the town to end with a lung busting hill finish.
Runners are rewarded with a bottle of craft beer – an excellent goody bag !
I did the race with some of my regular running buddies, egged on by Alison we had all signed up one Friday evening. We were not sure what to expect , but afterwards all agreed that the mixed crowd of club runners and fun runners and the race organisation made for a great atmosphere. Good weather helped of course, and I was pleased with my time of 45 minutes although to be honest I was not too bothered about the time, was happy just to take part.
Our running crew included Alison – who did it in a speedy 40 minutes , Linda who put in a magnificent performance ( she is pregnant with her second baby ), at around 43 minutes and still had time to take the photos you see here – Rosie another of our running crew – plus Alison’s daughter Sophie and a friend Cara made up the team.
Definitely a good day at Black Rock.