Race Report from the Forfar Multi Terrain Half Marathon by Alan Murray
The Forfar Multi Terrain Half Marathon is a unique event, a half marathon in the middle of winter through the fields and hills of Forfar in Angus. The event, now in its 11th year, is run by Forfar Road Runners and is very popular, selling out quickly. The race can definitely be described as multi terrain, with a varied mixture of running surfaces from country park paths, tarmac, pavement, farm tracks, fields, bogs and the occasional water feature.
The 2020 race was held on 3rd February and 10 harriers, amongst a strong field of 250, made their way to Forfar to line up at Strathmore Rugby Club for the start hoping to pick up some valuable off-road grand prix points
Last year the course was covered in snow and ice however this year as we arrived in Forfar the weather was being kind to us, with light drizzle.
The temperature dropped slightly as the 250 runners assembled shivering at the start line. Bang on 11am, the gun fired, and we were off straight onto muddy rails around the side of the loch then turning to run around Forfar Loch, before heading into the centre to cross a busy road then downhill to turn sharply right at approximately 4 miles into a remote farm track. Runners who have run this race before knowing what to expect at this point, as this part of the route is normally very muddy and wet presenting a serious challenge to the runners. Not to disappoint the track was covered in deep icy water, with the section not so deep covered in sticky mud! Deep tractor wheel tracks, presenting its own unique challenge to the old ankles, also lined the route for the next mile. This is where the race really starts and survival kicks in. Negotiating this stretch is a different challenge, where staying upright and maintaining a decent pace were the key goals. The thought of running a further 9 miles with sodden trainers and feet from the icy water needs to be banished quickly.
After a mile on the farm track, we then took a sharp left to run on tarmac for a mile or so, which is not comfortable in wet shoes, before turning right to run for a few miles along more narrow trails with the added challenge of animal gates to be safely negotiated. The 9-mile checkpoint soon arrived before crossing the road and a sharp turn onto a trail and into Reid Park forest. This is the steepest part of the route with a climb up Balmashanner hill (known locally as ‘Bummie’) for 1-2 miles. The views from the top of the hill looking North-West towards the hills and glens were stunning, however, the view could not be savoured for very long as the ice cold wind battered our faces. The course soon levelled at about 11 miles and we descended along more muddy, wet and rutted trails, before running on more farm tracks and fields back into Forfar. The last few miles are on tarmac through an industrial estate, before a final sting in the tail of another wet and muddy trail section back to the rugby club.
The race finishes back at Strathmore rugby club where we could get changed into dry clothes, shower (a real novelty for a race) and tuck into the ‘legendary’ buffet (one of the best I have seen). Unusually the bar was open (for those not driving back after the race!)
This is great early season 1/2 marathon that is normally run in tough conditions, making it a good early season indicator of form for spring marathons and ultras. I always thoroughly enjoy this race. The course is challenging (not for the novice runner is emblazoned in bold on the Entry Central booking page) and the constantly varying terrain kept us engaged throughout the race, definitely no chance of boredom setting in! There are 7 check points which are all located at road crossings during the race, where each runner must have their number marked by a marshal. This can slow you down a little but is a chance to get your breathe back. This is a no-frills race with no medal or T- shirt at the end, but that is not a problem as the uniqueness of the race and the buffet more than make up for that!
First Harrier home was new Steven King in a great time of 01:27:43. Steven King won 3rd Male Vet overall. Stevie, Ben and Lee won 3rd male team. First female home was Karen Forsyth in a time of 02:01:25
Well done all!
Images courtesy of Pete Bracegirdle and Gordon Donnachie