Aberdeen-based Sean Chalmers was thrilled he managed to handle the pressure and set a Run Balmoral 5k course record over the weekend.
In his first run-out in the annual Run Balmoral event, Inverness Harriers member Chalmers ran 14:23sec to finish more than 30 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, Lachlan Oates.
Chalmers then went on to enjoy a slightly more relaxed 15-mile trail race on Sunday, where he finished in second place.
Coming off the back of two half-marathons last month, the 5km has been something of an unknown quantity for Chalmers so far this year – but his strong performance in his Run Balmoral debut meant it was worth the substantial pre-race nerves.
The teacher said: “It was good to get the win and run a good time.
“I felt a lot of pressure – I haven’t been that nervous in a while. You want to get the win, but you’re also cautious of the performance. I felt I needed to get a good run in as well.
“I pushed on from the start, and Lachlan Oates and Max Abernethy dropped off after just over 1km, so I was delighted (with the win).”
‘I will definitely be back’
The conditions, which were bright if a little breezy, added another tactical element to Chalmers’ race plan, too, he explained: “I thought: ‘let’s get a wee gap (from Oates and Abernethy) so they have to work into the wind as well.’
“When I went up the hill into the trees, I didn’t feel the wind too much. They were pretty ideal conditions to be fair.”
And Chalmers revealed the success he enjoyed at the weekend will definitely see him returning to Run Balmoral – which hasn’t taken place since 2019 – to again experience the buzz well-known to accompany the event.
“The atmosphere was great,” he said. “There were so many people out there, even at the back of the course, and halfway through there were loads of people cheering you on. That was really nice.
“I didn’t realise I was on for that time though – I thought I was on course for a 14:35 to 14:40. When I crossed the line and saw the time was 14:23, I thought: ‘I could have enjoyed that a wee bit more.’
“But it’s a good time for a season opener coming off the half-marathon type of training.
“It’s the first time I’ve run here, but I will definitely be back.”
Trail race wasn’t easy going for Caithness’ Douglas, despite margin of victory
Finishing ahead of Chalmers on his second outing – in Sunday’s trail race – was Caithness’s Andrew Douglas, who has now won the 15-mile distance on each of the three times he has competed at Run Balmoral.
Douglas was virtually untroubled throughout, his finishing time seeing him win by more than two minutes, but that is not to say Douglas was taking it easy.
He said: “There are points where the course got quite steep, so those (parts of the course) were predictably a bit of a struggle between miles eight and 10. The track gets a bit gravelly, so you don’t get as much traction as you do on the smooth tracks elsewhere on the course.
“Going out hard from the start was the plan. I’m never complacent – at the parts where you struggle, you worry the guys behind you are ramping it up.
“You don’t want to leave yourself vulnerable to being caught – you just push all the way, really. I didn’t let up at any part of the course. I just wanted to make it a hard honest effort.”
Douglas’ preparations now turn to the Scottish Hill Running Championships, which take place at Stùc a’ Chròin – about 25 miles north-west of Stirling – this weekend.
Lang hospital shifts can’t hold Naomi back in women’s 5k
Meanwhile, Naomi Lang, who has returned to Aberdeen after completing her degree in sport and exercise science in Edinburgh, took the plaudits after winning the women’s 5km at Run Balmoral.
Her time of 16:43sec put her 51 seconds ahead of her nearest challenger, Metro Aberdeen’s Claire Bruce.
It marks a solid start to the season for Aberdeen AAC’s Lang, who was ranked fourth in the under-23 age-group last year for the 5,000m on track.
Indeed, track running will be her main focus after she competes in the Scottish 5km road running championships, which take place in Edinburgh next month.
Much of her training is balanced with her job at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where Lang works as a healthcare assistant. Her shift pattern, which includes 12-hour-long stints, may be seen as an impediment to the challenging nature of distance running – but that’s not how Lang views it.
She said: “It’s a very random shift pattern. I do a mixture of day and night shifts for three weeks, then I get a week off. I will do four or five night shifts in a row – most of them are from seven until seven, whether it’s day or night.
“In a month, I only work 11 days, and I feel like going for a run is something you can do anytime.”