Monthly Archive: July 2011

10 things no-one tells you about Marathon Training

Hi friends! I had a great 10 mile race this morning out at Ballater for the Deeside Runners Ballater 10, and finished in 1hr 38mins 15secs. Race report will follow tomorrow as usual, but whilst I’m recovering here’s a post about marathon training, with some things everyone who’s thinking about running a marathon needs to know.

Also – in case you haven’t noticed or are reading this in an RSS reader/email subscription; Redwinerunner is now on facebook! If you’re a fan of the blog you can ‘Like’ the blog by clicking on the Like box on the right over there to receive ad hoc updates, pictures and links from around the blogosphere. I was in two minds whether to do this or not as I was concerned it might seem a bit narcissistic, however I’ve met so many readers recently who’ve given me such kind and lovely feedback on my writing that I figured there’s an audience out there who might like it (hello!).

Anyway I do hope everyone’s had a great weekend of running – I’ll leave you some questions:

Who’s been racing? Any new PBs? How is everyone’s Loch Ness Marathon training going? Do you have any must-share marathon training tips? The grosser the better!

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This post is the precursor to a count-down series of 8 posts marking the last eight weeks of my training programme for the Loch Ness Marathon. Beginning next week, I plan on posting a weekly review of my training and thoughts on a Sunday evening. For now however, here’s a list of lessons I’ve learned so far. There are a lot of training guides and blogs out there with opinions on how best to get oneself to the start of a marathon; but somehow none of them mention the grizzly parts of the training which no-one wants to talk about. I can only presume that in the end once the finish line has been crossed, memories of these little agonies are swept to the darkest parts of the mind by the euphoria of success;making you want to do it all again right away. Here’s my full disclosure guide to the early stages of marathon training…

1. Your feet are toast.

Runner’s feet are the stuff of legends. Ladies; once you start training for a marathon, you can kiss goodbye to well pedicured toenails because if you’re doing it right by the mid-way point you’ll likely be missing a couple. Having properly fitted shoes will help, but there’s really nothing you can do to avoid this. Repeated pounding to the toes will cause blisters to form underneath the nail, the nail will lift off the nail bed and cause large amounts of pain. After your run you’ll need to soak your feet in water to soften the skin and then relieve the pressure under the nail by draining the blister with a sterilised needle poked down the back of the nail. Once the blister has dried out, the nail can carefully be removed – in my opinion it is more comfortable to remove the nail than to have a semi-detached toenail moving about in my socks whilst I’m running. Sooner or later you’ll work out what’s best for you though – but watch out for black toenails caused by blood blisters under the nail, they’re pretty gnarly. Wear your nasty feet with pride! You’ve earned them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Badger refuses to have me put these near him unclothed ;)

2. Hunger

As your mileage builds you will be hungry like you’ve never felt hunger before. Get used to eating yourself out of house and home and always make sure you’ve got a fully stocked fridge for the days around your Long Run. Be smart though and eat sensibly; runners need carbs but not ridiculous amounts of them all the time – typically one mile ran = 100kcal burned, so adjust your food intake to replace what you’ve burned. Marathon training is not a free pass to eat whatever you like! The night before a long run have a carb heavy meal, afterwards fill your body with protein to aid muscle recovery.

3. Pain

Make friends with pain, and in your training you’ll never be alone. From the agony of the final miles of the long slow runs of the weekend to the exhaustion of your speed work – unfortunately the presence of pain won’t end there. Getting up in the morning, your muscles and joints will complain and your feet will be howling. Get used to what’s normal for you though and consult a professional if anything gets too bad. Most of this time you can stick with the no-pain, no-gain rule…and if it ever gets too much, think about crossing that finish line and clutching the medal you’ve hungered for for so long and suddenly it all seems worth it. At least for me anyway.

4. Weight Gain

Marathon training is not for weight loss. Despite doing more physical activity that you’ve probably ever done in your life before, chances are the numbers on the scales are going to creep up rather than down. You can’t train on a calorie deficit or you run the risk of burning out and getting an injury; besides, your growing muscles need fuel to support them. It’s probably a good idea to put the scales away if you’re sensitive to an increase in your numbers, and remember – scales don’t measure what’s inside; if you’re training for a marathon then you’re full of awesome (which weighs more than laziness :P)

5. GI issues

Do you know how many times a day you poop? Do you know how long it takes for you to poop in the morning after you get up? Do you find yourself looking for thick bushes as you go about your daily business? If so then congratulations; you’re training for a marathon. Running and digestion aren’t always the best of friends and chances are it will take you a few months to get in sync with yourself – probably most of what you learn will be through experiences such as the first time you eat something spicy the night before before a long run, the first time you don’t poop before a race, and the first time you eat bran flakes and wholemeal toast for breakfast before a run. Pro tips for pre-run pooping – coffee as soon as you get up gets the digestive system going, spicy food the night before or meal before a run is not a good idea, wholemeal/whole grain foods whilst great in theory need to be balanced with starchy white carbs pre-run/race to keep things…solid :D What?! I said there’d be full disclosure up above – if you’re already a distance runner you know you’re nodding and wistfully remembering the first time you made these mistakes. You need to get to know your body and how it functions – in ALL regards!

6. I have a husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend?!

Training for a long distance race will take up a lot of your time. I’m going to say this again; training for a long distance race will take up a lot of your time. A few months in, your life is going to consist of the following: sleep, work, run, eat, sleep. Maybe not in that order, but that’s about it. Chances are if you have a partner that’s not a runner, you’ll be spending a lot less time with them which is a shame, but hopefully they’ll support you in your endeavours and will be there for you every inch of the way. A supportive partner can be a huge benefit – training for a distance race for the first time is really hard. I’m finding it really hard. Badger’s not a runner but knowing he’s got my back and that he’s waiting for me at the end of every finish line means the world to me. He’s picked me up, dusted me off and put me back on my feet more times than I care to remember. Don’t neglect your partner or best mate no matter how much your training schedule takes over your life – make sure to schedule date nights/hang out time on your rest days and decompress with them. Try not to talk about the goddamned marathon; chances are you’re thinking about it approximately 23 hours a day anyway so do everyone a favour and talk about something else and give yourself a break.

7. You will want to sleep all the time

Right now, for me, any spare time is potential a) napping time b) eating time. You’re putting yourself through an exhaustive training schedule for the first time and your body is struggling to keep up. Now is not the time to try and be super-productive – try to indulge yourself if you can; if you find yourself lying on the couch falling asleep in front of the TV the day after your long run then just go with it and snooze. Hopefully any spare family members about will be sympathetic and leave you alone – if not, then you get a wild card strop opportunity and you can snarl at them and stomp off to bed. This may, or may not, have happened to me recently… Seriously though, get as much sleep as you can. P.S – after-race naps are the best.

8. Once upon a time, you had a social life…

Remember those days, not long ago, when you’d get a text mid-afternoon saying “Hey lady! How’s it going? Not seen you in ages! Going out with some of the old gang tonight after work for drinks – interested? XXX” and you’d be delighted to join your old friends for buckets of Chardonnay and jagerbombs until the early hours of the morning. Of course you know what’s coming – if this spontaneous plan occurs on a long or mid-length run day you won’t be able to go; you’ll agonise and try to rationalise it for a few minutes, but then you remember how guilty you’ll feel for missing a run, and how hungover you’ll feel the next day so you can’t even make it up tomorrow…and you turn them down. Again. The first couple of times you do this it will be hard, but the weird thing is after a while it becomes less of an issue. Perhaps a mix of your friends knowing that Thursday night happy hour is a no-go for you as it’s mid-length night, and your increasing dedication…at some point you’ll realise that your social life has changed. I went out for dinner last week with my friend Jo and when we were catching up I realised I hadn’t actually got new news to share – all I’d been doing was running, or recovering. There was a time when I would have lambasted myself for being so boring, but secretly I felt kind of proud that I was doing something few of my friends have ever dreamt of. On the other hand don’t get me wrong – they don’t call me the Red Wine Runner for nothing and I’ve become the master of running with a hangover, but at some point my wild lifestyle dialled itself down a notch without me even noticing.

9. Learn to do your own washing

How do you feel about laundry? Are you a secret slob who double runs in your running kit or do you insist on fresh shorts every time? Either way you’re going to need to choose between a) buying lots more washing powder and b) buying lots more kit. With four or more sweaty runs a week that adds up to a lot of sweaty shorts, tops, bras and socks. If you’re a bit manky you can re-use some of your kit, but obviously nothing feels better than a pair of shorts freshly scented with whichever ridonkulous fragrance Lenor is infusing their washing power with these days. Black diamond anyone? What the hell does a black diamond smell like anyway?! On the other hand marathon training is a damn good excuse to go and buy some shiny new kit – you WILL need it. Jen at This Runner’s Trials has an excellent post HERE on why ladies shouldn’t re-use their shorts… Oh, and do your own washing – your partner will love you for it.

10. You WILL find out what you are made of… and you might not like it

At some point, marathon training will lay you bare and expose weakness you didn’t know about. When you’re tackling something so tough, it’s inevitable that you will have to overcome some obstacles and in most cases with this, it is going to be mental. It’s at this point that all the advice in the world is not going to help you and if you really want it, you just need to harden the F up and get on with it. For the majority of your training the challenge of completing the marathon will be greater than you – it’s your job to prepare yourself as well you can and at some stage there will be a tipping point. If you put the work in, the distance will come within your reach and suddenly it will seem a whole lot less impossible. The journey you take to get there will be all your own however; for me, I’ve realised how pathetic I can become mid-race if things don’t go my way, I’ve learned the fragility of my mid-race mentality and how quickly I can turn it around away from my favour. You can only get over these humps by sheer bloody minded perseverance – you have to figure out where to believe in yourself from somewhere because no-one else can do it but you.

Now go put your shoes on and go for a run.

~RwR

 

 

 

A Fetch Mile

I’m a bit behind in this week’s updates; the Badger was away all last week so since his return on Saturday we’ve been enjoying the limited time we have together after our respective busy working days. Before he got back however, I had the opportunity to participate in my first Fetch Mile!

So – Fetch. I’m trying to figure out how to describe it succinctly, but it’s a little tricky. First of all it’s a website; a UK running website, which is on the surface, a *little* like facebook for runners. When you sign up you have a profile you can complete which features a biography space, sections for your racing experience and personal bests, a picture gallery, a blog, and other running stats like your personal WAVA% and your running clubs, shoes and a training log. There is a huge forum to chat to other runners about everything under the sun, a race directory, a route map database, injury information, and plenty of articles to read. The owner also writes a newsletter every week with some serious statistical analysis based on the training that members input into the site. Such as – the typical effects on member’s 10k personal best times when they’ve been doing interval training.

Primarily of course, it’s a great resource to meet other runners local to you. Fetch Miles are when people in a certain area get together at a local track and race a timed mile and socialise. It’s a chance to meet newer members and put faces to usernames – and work on your Mile PB!

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There were about 16 runners and various other partners/children/friends. Traditionally it would seem that everyone wears their Fetch gear – looks like I need to get me a Fetch vest! Wear one of those in any race across the UK and there’s a 99% chance you’ll either a) see another ‘Fetchie’ running or b) hear shouts of ‘Go Fetchieeeee!!!’ coming from the crowds. In bigger races of course, there is the Fetchpoint – as recently featured locally in the Stonehaven Half Marathon.

The morning kicked off at 10am at Aberdeen Sports Village – the big University/city run sports complex which luckily I have a free membership to due to my job at the University. It has a huge gym, full-size indoor football pitch, basketball courts, squash courts, indoor 100m track and indoor athletics facilities such as pole vault and long jump as well. In the next year construction will start on the huge aquatics centre as well, which will be the biggest swimming facility North of Stirling.

Anyway, we split ourselves in to three groups – 8 minute plus, 7 – 8minutes and sub-7minute miles. I correctly opted for the middle ground.

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The 8 minute plus group headed out first. Each runner was assigned a timer person with a garmin who was responsible for tracking their time.

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The speedster sub-7s went next. You can spot Mike second from left – he was the one who initially introduced me to the cult of Fetch.

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So fast! The fastest run of the day was ran by The Duckinator (seen on the right above) in a time of 05m 41s.

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Mike crossed the line in his predicted time of 5m51s.

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Us middle of the road lot came last.

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I had never run a mile before, and the last time I was anywhere near an athletic track was school sports day 11 years ago and the memories still make my stomach turn. You see, everyone had to run the 100m on sports day, and then had to pick a minimum of one track event out of the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m events. I have terrible memories of being amongst the slowest and being placed in the last heat on sports day, alongside girls who rather liked their pies too much and had other varying excuses and reasons for their lack of speed. I have a memory of trying so hard one year, that I tripped over myself and landed arse over tit in front of a stadium stand of parents. Ritual humiliation – at the heart of every British school education.

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I was unsure of how to approach it – I figured if I tried to keep my speed under 8:00m/mile then that would be a good start, and then sprint all out on the last 200 meters. As it happened it was very windy – the 200 and 300m sections of the track were tough to run hard in to…but you got blown away across the finish line!

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This is commencing the final lap – I was bringing up the rear of the pack – you can see the chap who won our heat to the right of my shoulder.

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Wheeee! Flying over the finish line! I then thought I was going to throw up – I’m told this is a good sign when racing a mile! My official time? 7 minutes 40 seconds Open-mouthed smile I thought it might be something like that. I look forward to the next opportunity I have to beat my time!

I had so much fun; everyone from Fetch is so lovely and it’s great to talk about local running and know that you’ll recognise faces at each race. It’s such a friendly and inclusive site and I love how anywhere you go in the UK with a Fetch top on, there’ll be someone that knows what you’re about – it’s like a secret club Smile

After the mile I went to the gym and ran another 4 on the treadmill – my first treadmill run in months! I didn’t like it – treadmills are so boring, but it was more miles in the legs and that’s all that counts. The next day however I tackled my biggest run yet…17 miles! SEVENTEEN?!? I mapped out a ridiculous route around Aberdeen and I found that running on the pavements actually kept me entertained – I didn’t get bored and lonely at all, not like my last long slow run of 15 miles where I found my mojo flagging. I took a camelbak and two gels and experienced no leg or knee pain – I was so chuffed. My feet took a real battering however, and one of my nails is entirely lifted off my nail bed with a blister. Nice!

This weekend heralds another race – the Ballater 10 mile race, which is quite hilly. I’m looking forward to this distance – I think it will be perfect for me and am hoping for between 1hr 30m and 1hr 40m.

All photos used with thanks to Liam Hare (Mr Nywanda)

RACE REPORT – Dundee Half Marathon

17th July 2011 – Dundee Half Marathon

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2hr 12min 50secs (new personal best)

406th out of 512 finishers. Gender 109th out of 160, Age group 48th/80.

I had originally signed up for this half marathon some time ago when I was planning my Marathon training in the first instance. I wanted to incorporate several half marathons so I could get used to racing in longer distances and build some mental racing endurance. In retrospect it wasn’t ideal to be racing another half only a fortnight after my first, but if anything it forced me to face up to any residing issues I still had in my head regarding the distance after my challenging first attempt at Stonehaven.

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Racing in Dundee meant an early start – too early for Azul who was not impressed at all. I was up at 6am to eat some food and we left at 7am.

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Overnight oats made with vanilla and mango yogurt, buttered Soreen and a pre-race banana, washed down with two double espressos. I ate the oats and took the rest  in the car.

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Leaving Aberdeen it was a beautiful, calm and clear morning. I was a little worried that if it continued to be sunny as we travelled South then it would just get hotter and hotter…

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Ah. Worry not. Plenty rain ahead. FYI this is Stonehaven, and those lovely ‘rolling’ hills in the background are what we climbed to the top of and down again in the half marathon…

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Mmm rain rain rain. Much better.

We got to Camperdown Park in Dundee right on schedule at 8.30am and were directed onto some very wet grass for parking.

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When we exited our vehicle we were immediately (and I mean immediately; the car doors hadn’t even closed!) accosted by a lady selling tablet for a Breast Cancer charity which was quite disconcerting. She must have made a fortune in this way. We bought some anyway although the way we were backed up against our own vehicle didn’t leave any other options.

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Registration was in the Wildlife Centre building which had a small cafe open and two toilet cubicles. There were no other toilets at the start since the Dundee Council, who run the Manor House where the rest of the loos were, had decided not to open them early for the race as previously promised. The race organiser apologised profusely for this and encouraged everyone to write to the Council to ask why they had elected to not support this large event. I was so, so glad I had insisted on a pre-emptive toilet stop at Dundee Tesco’s just in case. You never know what you’ll be faced with at a race start line…never pass up the opportunity to use the facillities!

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Despite this being a largish race (650 places) there was a fair lack of atmosphere at the start. No-one really seemed to know what was going on, there were no sign posts to the start line, no visible start line and nothing other than a big herd of skinny runners shivering in nylon vests waiting in the cold waiting to get started.

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When we eventually found the starting line, it turned out that the generator which was supposed to blow up the starting line arch had failed, so they just had us all line up at a specific point. There was a reasonable amount of hanging around – I think the race started on time at 10am but it felt so much longer as I had no-one to talk to after Colin went to take pictures of the start, and as mentioned before, there was absolutely no atmosphere.

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There were a lot of club runners representing clubs from all over Scotland, however it seemed about a 50/50 mix of club vs non club runners. I saw Martin Dickie from Brewdog and his missus who were both running, but other than that I didn’t recognise a single face in the crowd. The weather at this point seemed a bit changeable – it was warmish and humid, with thick cloud betraying the epic amounts of rain which had fallen in the past 24 hours.

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I was a little nervous, and just really wanted to start. My race plan hadn’t changed – first 6 miles easy, ramp it up a little for 7-10 miles, then push harder still for the final 5k and hopefully finish strong like Stonehaven. Suddenly the crowd began a countdown and before I knew it we were off and I was running another half marathon.

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Notice anything strange here? Look a little closer…where are all the women?! It was a very male dominated race – only 160 ladies racing out of 512 starters.

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Disconcertingly, I had a repeat of the same panics which swept over me at the start at Stonehaven. I would describe it almost like hyperventilating; I just couldn’t catch my breath and my pulse was through the roof. I had to concentrate hard on breathing in slowly  through my nose and out through my mouth as calmly as I could – part of me seemed to be panicking about whether or not I’d be able to complete the distance and within my goal time (I was aiming for under 2hr 10mims, ideally 2hr 5minsish), and yet the other part was totally chilled out. Perhaps the added pressure of having a PB to beat triggered it? I’m not sure, I really hope it doesn’t become a feature of my distance races…perhaps once I’ve got a few more under my belt and am more comfortable with the distance it will stop.

The first mile was uphill on a muddy mountain bike trail which eventually evened out until two and a bit miles where we were spat out of the forest on to a closed road. I had sorted out my start-of-race freakout by now and was running comfortably. There was a water station at 3 miles where there were small cups of water – not ideal, but they did the job. The clouds had cleared and it was beginning to heat up now – without the humid canopy of the forests we were exposed to the sunlight. Please don’t have this turn into another Stonehaven scorcher I begged…

Miles three, four and five were almost entirely downhill and on pavements. I allowed myself to relax and let the momentum carry me without pushing too hard. There were quite considerable amounts of marshalls out on the course as the runners had to cross many roads and junctions. The police were out in force too – just as well as some Dundee drivers just can’t be trusted; one boy racer decided to bypass the queue of traffic stopped by some officers at a T junction, by driving along the pavement and attempted to sneak a left turn directly in to the path of the runners without being seen. It was greatly entertaining to see a constable stand right in front of his vehicle and another open his car door and pull him out of the vehicle like a scene from Grand Theft Auto. I hope he got cited for it.

At mile 5 the course went off the road and onto the Dundee Green Circular route which is a cycle path. It crossed the A90 on a footbridge at Fintry and then decended into a park were plenty of local wildlife (neds) were hanging around to cheer us (hassle us) on . There was also a lot of broken glass on the path through this park; a shame but not unexpected in Dundee on a Sunday morning. There was more water at mile 6 and I took my first gel at this point. I was beginning to feel hot and uncomfortable and I took two cups of water – given that they only had about 2 inches of fluid in them each I don’t think this was that out of order but the marshal looked at me like I had two heads when I took the second. I needed it though, it was after 11am and getting hotter and hotter.

So according to my race plan I should have felt that my legs were ready to pick up the pace a little at this point, however I was comfortable with what I was doing and decided to just stick with it. The path was full of random undulations; short sharp hills and descents, and it was tricky to find a rhythm and stick with it. As I approached 8 miles the sun was really beginning to have a hard negative effect on me and I was feeling sick and terribly thirsty, I took a 0.10m walking break and decided it was ok to allow myself another at each mile from then on if I needed it to save energy. I think it was this point when the first cracks of doubt started to creep in; I could tell my energy was waning, if this was how is was going to be at 8 miles how would I find the strength to push harder closer to the finish?

The mountain bike trail spat us back out on to pavement at about 9.0 miles and oddly we went from running on a peaceful riverside trail to running alongside a main road through a shopping park. As we passed a KFC I wailed inside for the fountains of cold drinks which were mere steps away…chilled refreshing sprite…sugary, caffeinated coca cola… it was torture. That and the ubiquitous ‘KFC smell’ which surrounds every one of their outlets of course. I wanted to vomit, a lot, but there were lots of spectators at this part so I sucked my tummy in and concentrated on pretending I was a glamourous, powerful athlete conquering miles one by one for the cheering crowd, rather than being the overweight, plodding, sweaty, puke-bomb waiting to explode at the back of the pack.

After we ran through the shopping park we ended up running along the side of the A92, a main road into Dundee. We also took a random 1/2 mile out-and-back loop into a partially built housing estate… I cast my mind back to the map and course profile I had studied online…no – this was definitely not on the published course. Looking ahead up the A92 going East I saw a long thin stream of runners plodding up the long slow incline for what seemed like miles ahead. Incline!? There’s no incline at this point!?!!

In retrospect, I think this is where I let myself down and my race ended for me here. With the unexpected change of course, my race plan was moot. There was no way I could push my pace in the last miles when at least 1.5 of them were going to be uphill. I was really struggling from lack of water and had stopped sweating, my head was going fuzzy and I couldn’t stop focusing on what to do – mentally I was somewhat crumbling. All I needed to do was put one foot in front of the other but I was obsessing over my time and I could see that it was possible, if I didn’t keep moving fast, that I would come in even slower than Stonehaven. I thought about how embarrassing that would be and how rubbish I was for failing at my goal. Then I realised what a weakling I was being for allowing myself to think negatively and that I’d already failed in my goal to be tougher and push through mental and physical weaknesses in this race and all I could think about was how the whole race was just a disaster to round off a week of crap running.

There’s really nothing to report on the last couple of miles. No blaze of glory, no strong finish; I ended up walk/running the final mile and stumbled over the line in 2hrs 12 minutes and 50 seconds (garmin time, the race wasn’t chipped).

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I even got beaten by Wallace and Gromit!! I was near them for a lot of the course, they must have been so hot. They were a couple and when they took walking breaks they were holding hands, it was quite sweet. I wish Colin ran too…but then who would take the pictures?!

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The finish was in Broughty Ferry down by the River Tay. Very beautiful place to finish a race.

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Not very happy, and it shows.

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I immediately grabbed some water and sat down with my head between my knees, feeling miserable. Colin came over and asked how I was and I just babbled nonsense at him about how awful my race had been and how thirsty I was.

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I think I must have got through 2 litres of fluids in the half hour after the race. I slowly regained lucidity and ate some food and a protein shake. In the goody bag was a nice colourful medal, a water bottle, a gel, some snacks and a 15% off voucher for Run4It which will come in handy when it’s time for some new trainers at the end of the summer.

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We thought about sticking around Dundee for some lunch, but we decided just to save ourselves the money and head straight back up the road. I spent the rest of the day on the couch eating and drinking until I fell asleep.

In case you haven’t guessed; I am really good at allowing negative thoughts to snowball. As soon as a crack appears if I’m in the wrong state of mind I can exploit that to have myself mentally beaten in to a bloody pulp within minutes. All this over a stupid training race that I didn’t care all that much about anyway?

When the results were released on Monday I saw I was 406 out of 512 finishers. In my head that just seems really lame…I have much higher expectations of myself and I’m beginning to wonder if they are even realistic. If I’d hit my goal time I’d have been in the top 250 which would have been much more satisfactory…but was that even possible?! I don’t know, the course was tougher than expected – you really couldn’t call it a road race; at least two thirds of it was on a trail, and the huge hill where there ought to have been a descent was a sneaky addition. The change of course messed with my head and my plan, and the weather really wasn’t ideal. But these are all weak excuses – I have to take responsibility for my own performance and at the end of the day it was rubbish.

All this fuss over a sodding half marathon. I just want to do the best I can and it frustrates me no end when I find myself falling short of what I think I can (or want to) achieve. Onwards and upwards – next race is the Ballater 10 miler on the 31st of July; another new distance to be raced.

This is not a rut

After Sunday’s both physically and mentally exhausting 15 miles, I was apprehensive about lacing up my shoes for my scheduled run on Tuesday – an easy 4 miles. I don’t know why I would feel nervous, it doesn’t really make sense, but I was worried in case it would feel just as rubbish to run 4 easy miles than 15…as if I’d broken my running mojo somehow…?

Yeah I know. Anyway, as it happened I ran four lovely miles and cruised along the Beach Esplanade listening to Mike Oldfield without a care in the world. I was happy to see that indeed, I had NOT left my running mojo 7 miles up the Formartine and Buchan Railway line on Sunday.

Yesterday was bright and sunny with a brisk breeze – I had 8 miles on the schedule and since it was low tide, I decided to run to Donmouth beach and run on the hard wet sand. I considered driving to the beach, but since it’s only two miles from my house I decided to skip the horrendous traffic on King St and run to it instead. This would have been a great idea had it not been for the umpteen stationary van and lorry loads of grunting neanderthals who saw fit to whistle and cat-call after me as I ran past. I hate, hate, HATE running on streets for this reason – the abuse female runners get from some male motorists or other male-occupied vehicles is appalling. Yes; I am a girl, running. Wearing shorts, and a vest. I have legs, breasts and a bottom. I also have a beating heart, a brain and two ears – just like your Mother, your wife, your sister and your daughter. Would you abuse any of them like that? Make them suffer in listening to such offensive words since they dare to run down a street alone? Goddamnit it makes me so angry to have to put up with this every time I leave the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANYWAY. Donmouth is North of Aberdeen and the golden beach stretches for miles with ne’er a soul on it. Delectible solitude to take away the harsh punishment for my crime of being female and exercising outside without a man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking South and North.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I got a bit warm I ran through some of the shallower water to cool off. When I reached 4 miles I stopped for a breather and to take stock. I am so blessed to have beautiful places like this to run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing like jumping on a blogger band-wagon. Beach yoga anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hastily positioned Dancer’s Pose. Then I stopped faffing around with the self-timer and came home.

Sadly, in short the run sucked. Despite the beautiful surroundings and perfect weather, it didn’t matter in the end because I couldn’t keep a good pace and I had to keep taking walking breaks. I think I can atttribute some of this difficulty to running on sand, but I seemed to be displaying an alarming lack of stamina which I found very frustrating. I felt heavy and uncoordinated throughout and without any of my previously rediscovered joie de vivre. Running, why do you tease me so?! I am trying not to see this as a rut or a blip in my training, and just accept that some runs are good, some runs are bad. All that matters is more miles in the bank towards the marathon. 11 weeks on Sunday.

This Sunday, however, heralds my second attempt at the Half Marathon distance. After the challenges of Stonehaven two weeks ago, I am hoping that when I toe the startline in Dundee on Sunday I will be fully fuelled and hydrated, without food poisoning and hopefully under a grey and cloudy sky. The weather looks good (nice and rainy!) and I’m crossing everything that can be crossed that nothing that crosses my lips will disagree with me.

Race-wise, the plan is to just hang out nice and easy for the first 6 miles at around 9:30 to 10ish min per mile, and then change gears and speed it up a bit until Mile 11 when I’ll go into my “this is a 5k race” gear and hopefully finish strong. The course looks fairly flat, so I am confident of slicing a fair bit off my underwhelming 2hr 15 PB. I’ll be happy with 2hr 05m, but if the stars align I should be able to get it under 2. Maybe.

What I do need to be concious of is that this is a TRAINING RACE and not a GOAL race, and I should not be busting my guts (or my body) trying to do well. I had to take a few days off after Stonehaven as I was in pain and I can’t afford to be doing that after every race this summer. If I injure myself trying to get a good PB then I’ll be mad as hell so I need to remind myself of the bigger picture if I start hurting. It is All. About. The. Marathon.

Tonight I’m off to try and redeem myself again with 5 easy miles. Then I’m going to the pub. Beer is an excellent carb loading substance you see…

 

 

15 miles

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On Sunday I completed my longest run to date – 15 miles. The Loch Ness Marathon is creeping up on us – it is alarmingly only 12 weeks away now. I got a handy reminder of this in the mail this morning when I got a letter confirming my entry and notifying me of my race number.

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Race number 1658.

Sometimes I think I fail to realise the size of the task in hand and how far I still have to go. I certainly reminded myself of it as I struggled through 15 painful miles by myself on Sunday, the last 5 of which were run in a tropical-style downpour. There are no actual words to describe the sheer depth of my drenching – it was hot, wet, splashy summer rain which poured relentlessly like a showerhead, flooded the path and soaked me to my core. I was already struggling to find my motivation and the last few miles made me feel sick and sad. The very thought of the marathon nauseated me and I just wanted to give up on the spot. Even knowing that I had run FIFTEEN MILES, all by myself and achieved what I set out to do wasn’t enough to raise a smile or a glimmer of pride. All I could see was the fact that I still had 11.2 miles still to achieve.

I know first-time marathon training makes you dig deep inside yourself for reserves of strength you never thought you had, so I’m just putting this dip in mood down to part of that. Doing this by myself is as mentally exhausting as it is physically, I sometimes wish I had someone to train with; especially for long runs. Two and a half hours of pounding a deserted trail by yourself is enough to make anyone question their sanity I think. I’m jealous of people who can run with their partners or friends and make the journey together; I read other running blogs and see how people meet up for training together and it makes me wish I had that too.

I think the other stupid thing which is niggling in the back of my head is due to me hanging out with Ultrarunners too much. I somehow feel like what I’m doing is inadequate; that I’m fretting over nothing – after all, it’s only 26.2 miles eh?! But I know really it’s far from inadequate – running is such an individual sport and I don’t look down on people who run shorter distances so why on earth would ultra runners look down on me for ‘only’ tackling a marathon?! They all went through the downright terrifying experience of running their first marathon and they know exactly what I’m going through – probably right down to the crippling periods of self doubt just like this that occur from time to time. This is the kind of stupid thinking which brews in my brain when I run for hours on my own and I’m an idiot.

You have to respect the marathon – it’s not a distance to be trivialised. After all it was this distance which was once considered the peak of human endurance and caused Pheidippides to collapse and die from exhaustion after running it*. I just hope that I am respecting it at the correct level and not letting it intimidate me.

So after my desperately soggy 15 miles, I was left looking and feeling like this:

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Today I have legs which are in agony and I’m about to lose another toenail.

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There’s a lovely big fat blister under there which I’ve drained. I’ll give it a couple of days to dry out before completing the removal. Toenails are overrated anyway. I usually only sport 6 or 7 but recently I’ve had my full compliment of 9 (I had my left big toenail permanently removed last August – if anyone’s interested I can do a post on this and on how it’s affected my running?).

And on that note I think I’ve lowered the tone sufficiently to call it a night. There’s an episode of ER with my name on it and a large triple chocolate cookie too. Who said marathon training doesn’t have any positives?!

* = N.B not strictly true – Pheidippides only ran 25 miles, the extra 1.2m was added on in 1908 at the Olympics in London so that Queen Alexandra could get a better view of the start. Cow.

Recovery Time – worth it or not?

I’ve had an interesting few days of recovery since racing my first 13.1 miles. On Monday when I woke up and stepped out of bed I came very close to keeling right over as putting weight on my feet was that sore! Closer examination revealed a swollen right foot arch/ankle which I spent considerable time nursing with ice, compression and ibuprofen. Despite walking like a penguin for a day or two due to this I faired reasonably well, with moderately sore quad muscles being the only evidence of Sunday’s hard uphill climbs.

I was keen to get right back on the marathon training wagon on Tuesday and complete my scheduled 4 easy miles, however there was a niggling doubt that it was perhaps not the best thing to do. I asked the wisdom of the Twitterverse whether it was wise to go out and received the resounding opinion that it wasn’t worth risking an injury just for the sake of a training plan. I’ve been chatting to many runners on Twitter for a good while now and it really is the most fantastic resource if you have a random question or are looking for some advice from your fellow runners.

So how soon is too soon? It’s a question many runners will find themselves asking after completing a race, a minor injury or even just a strenuous workout. It’s important to note that an injury takes a lot longer to recover from than a hard run and that the frustration you might feel from missing one workout will be multiplied tenfold if you’re forced to take some serious time off. It was pointed out to me that whilst it’s important to dedicate yourself to a training plan and not punk out, you have to remember that they’re essentially a guide which you tweak to fit your life around. They’re not the be-all and end-all and in the grand scheme of things, missing a run is not going to make you DNS your race.

Many people praise the virtues of cross-training in circumstances such as these – try a different, low-impact form of cardio instead of running such as swimming or a spinning class. If my knees are feeling janky the day after a long run I’ve been known to switch out a short run in favour of some time on the stair-master or the cross trainer in the gym. Not ideal as I’d much rather be outside, but it stops me bouncing off the walls in frustration and it works muscles I don’t use as frequently when I’m running. I’m also a fan of stepping into the weight room to do an upper body work out or doing a core strength session to work my much-neglected middle.

As it happened; I didn’t run on Tuesday and I had plans on Wednesday. Last night I did an upper body and core workout with my weights at home and tonight I’m ready to get my running shoes back on to take care of my deficit for the week. After work I’m planning an 8ish mile long jaunt through Tillydrone and down to the River Don at Grandholm and Seaton, finishing up with a long stretch along the beach and back. The sun is out and I’m ready to get working on my runners’ tan again – who said sock lines on your legs and racer-back top marks on your back aren’t in this season? This will be followed by a gentle 3miles tomorrow and the big one on Sunday – 15 miles, and a new longest run ever!

Before I go I’d like to say HELLO! to all of my new readers who’ve arrived here from the Ythan Challenge website and the Stonehaven Half Marathon website – if you enjoy what you’re reading you can subscribe to my posts via an RSS reader or by email by following the links underneath my picture in the right hand column. Why not stick around and introduce yourself?

- How do you recover from races or hard work outs? Do you cross train? Share your tips!

- What kind of training have you got planned for the weekend? Any races or new challenges? Tell me about them!

Have a great weekend!

~RWR

 

 

RACE REPORT– Stonehaven Half Marathon

3rd July 2011, the Stonehaven Half Marathon

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2hrs 15mins 30secs

And with that, another obstacle was conquered.

It’s hard to believe that 7 months ago, when I first started this blog, a half marathon seemed like the biggest thing I could possibly achieve. It seemed like an almost impossible distance; I assumed it was something that I could work towards over a period of time and I’d scrape by come race day. I suppose one of the biggest things I’ve learned since then is that when it comes to running, the word impossible is bunk; it is no longer in my vocabulary when I talk about running. Even saying such a long word takes up too much time – stop making excuses and get running. Somewhere, someone who is busier/lazier/fatter/thinner/faster/slower than you is out running right this second. Nothing is impossible and limits no longer actually exist.

So yesterday I conquered my ‘impossible’ – I put to bed the demons which had taunted me ever since I DNS’d the Great North Run in 2006 and I finally raced and finished a half marathon. I just didn’t scrape by; I’ve covered the distance several times before and knew exactly how to pace myself to kick as much ass as possible. What I didn’t count on was having food poisoning the night before, puking four times and losing all my carb loading and hydration to some dodgy leftover aubergine I’d added to my pasta. I didn’t count on having to get up extra early to eat more food to try and give my body as much fuel as I could. I didn’t count on it being as hot as it was – the mercury tipped 23C in Stonehaven on Sunday, and the race was ran in blazing sunshine without a cloud in the sky. I didn’t count on puking again after 5 miles. I also didn’t count on finding out exactly how tough I am, and that alone makes up for my lacklustre time. At 2 hours 15 minutes it was fifteen minutes longer than I would have liked, but I know I fought as hard as I possibly could for every one of those minutes and I was at my physical limit for the duration of the race. I may not have been at my strongest, I may not have ran my fastest, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t try my hardest.

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When I went to my bed on Saturday night I was exhausted from dry-heaving the last of my stomach contents down the toilet, and my brain was in turmoil. I felt 100% better from getting rid of the dodgy food but I was freaking out – this was the absolute worst thing that could happen the night before a race, especially a distance race, and particularly since it was my first attempt at this distance. I was in unfamiliar territory before I even got to the starting line and I was relying on having everything under control. Having this control taken away from me by my body’s rejection of my carefully planned fuel caused me to panic and start to doubt myself and my abilities. Colin was out so I was rattling around the house by myself desperately just needing a hug and to be told everything was going to be ok. Not the most auspicious start to a race I’ve ever had, but somehow I got some decent sleep.

Mike was picking me up at 9:00am, so I awoke at 06:30am to eat and try and get as much sensible food in me and digested as possible before the race started at 11.15am. I had weetabix with dried fruit, peanut butter on toast, marmite on toast and lemon curd yogurt, washed down with powerade and water. I also took a clif bar to eat an hour before the start and packed my race belt with fuel to try and get me to the end of 13.1miles in one piece.

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It was the most gorgeous day outside – perfect blue skies unblemished by clouds and a scorching summer sun. So the basically worst weather possible for running a road race in… The drive down to Stonehaven was beautiful, the sun sparkling off the navy sea like glistening sapphires and everything seemed so green. Colours were oversaturated in the sunlight – we don’t get a lot of days like that up here and the North East coast never fails to dazzle me with its beauty on the few days each year that we do.

We talked about our goals for the race; Mike was aiming for a very precise time of 1hr 31m or less, which would be 65% WAVA and help him on his way to getting the gold standard in Stonehaven Running Club this year. I told him about my food woes and that I would be happy with anything between 2hrs and 2hr15mi due to the weather and the digestional situation.

We made good time down, got a decent parking spot and headed over to Mineralwell Park to register.

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Since it was Stonehaven Running Club that organises this race I knew a few people at registration whom I had first met at the WHW race – it was good to see Vicky, Iain and George again, and I also got to meet a few people from Fetch as well. There was a fair bit of hanging around to be done since we were there quite early; I spent this mainly trying to put as much liquid into myself as possible, whilst emptying my bladder as much as possible.

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I was really rather nervous which was a shame since I love racing and the atmosphere on race mornings, but I just couldn’t relax. At the back of my head doubt was starting to spread – Is this actually a good idea to do? Am I being really stupid tackling this new distance when I’m not 100%? In this weather? Either way I knew there was little to be done – I was there and the race wasn’t going to run itself. 11.15am came and it was time to harden the F up and get running.

In the end I think there was about 270 runners started and we were walked to the start which was on a road adjacent to the park lined with spectators.

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Apparently there was a race briefing, but I didn’t hear it and before I knew it there was the sound of an air horn and momentarily the sea of bodies in front of me shifted forwards. A surge of nausea echoed through me as I realised there was no going back and that for the next 2 hours it would just be me and the road.

A note about the course itself now, before I continue with this report. It is considered by some to be the toughest half marathon in Scotland, others consider it to be in the top three behind Heaven and Hell and Cape Wrath. It is a hilly, hilly race with the first 4 miles being constant incline. When I told people this was to be my first half I was told over and over again that if I could do this race, I could do any half with no bother. They also laughed – a lot. Here’s the course profile:

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You basically go from sea level to 500ft and back again. So knowing that, alongside the puking, the heat and the general anxiety will perhaps excuse me for being less than my usual positive self.

In the first few miles I panicked, majorly. Once you’re out of the starting road, the climb is swift, immediate and brutal. I concentrated hard on maintaining a steady 10:00mi pace as I climbed but the hordes of people passing me skewed my perception of speed – why the hell were they all going so fast? How are they going to keep this up? What’s going on?! Am I going to be left behind?! I had strong, brutal words with myself to keep myself on track – this is YOUR race not anyone else’s, you will run at YOUR pace not theirs, stop panicking, man the F up and get your head down and run. Take each mile at at time and tick them off as you go. You’ve got this…

Smiling families cheered us on sitting in their front gardens as we climbed up through the streets, oblivious to the stream of blue words I was muttering under my breath. The sun was pounding on my back and the heat radiated up from the hot tarmac beneath me, with each breathless step I pulled more hot air into my lungs as sweat began to soak my top and shorts. Just over a mile in and I could tell this was going to be the toughest physical thing I’d put myself through in my life.

There was a water station at Mile 2, which shone like a beacon in the distance. As it came closer and more into focus I couldn’t see anything on the tables… was this a mirage? Was I already hallucinating?! Approaching it I could see the guys manning it handing out the remaining bottles from an armful each; three, two, one, none. The lady in front of me got the last bottle… However this is why runners are great; she was running with a friend and the friend already had a bottle – she turned and handed it back to me saying they would share.

I took a few sips and squirted my back and chugged on, realising I’d be very silly to discard the bottle of water it at this point, despite despising running with things in my hands. I decided that since they had run out of water, I was clearly very close to the back end of the race and it was my fault for being slow, not the fault of the organisers for not having as much stock as would perhaps be necessary on such a hot day! Despite my heat addled brain deciding that I was last (I wasn’t, by a long stretch), I was trying to keep my spirits up – at least if I was last I’d get a huge cheer and it would make a good blog post about persevering through bad times…I distracted myself from the utter agony of the heat and my increasingly grumbling stomach by thinking up things to write in here for the next few entries. I’ve forgotten them all, naturally.

I was listening to Leftfield’s iconic album ‘Leftism’ – picked originally as it starts off very sedately and it would stop me going out too fast. Not that in the end there was any risk of that happening of course! I realised soon into the race that if I was going to succeed in finishing I was going to have to listen to my body not my watch and forget any ideas of pacing that I thought I had before the start.

Deep into the climb at mile 3ish I spotted a familiar looking marshal up ahead; it was Dave! I was glad to see a smiling face, nay, glad to see anyone else. We were deep in the beautiful countryside by now and the field was so spread out that it really was just me and the road; the next runners were about 100m ahead of me and I was too scared to look behind me in case it was just the sweepers behind me. Dave called something out to me and I smiled and rolled my eyes saying “this is grim stuff!” or something to that effect and continued plodding. I was too scared to even look at my watch to see my pace – at least I wasn’t walking.

There were some children up ahead with dishes of jelly sweets/jelly beans/jelly babies and balloons (I think?!) jumping around cheering – I took a handful of jelly beans and started chewing; I tried to swallow but it just wasn’t going to happen. I’ve read race re-caps where runners have written about not being able to force food down and I now understand the feeling. Instead I chewed for as long as possible with sips of water before spitting the blob of masticated sugar to the side of the road, hoping to have absorbed some vital sugar to boost me.

The top of the first hill was reached at mile 4 and a lone piper signalled our successful ascent to the highest point of the course. It felt soooo good to finally let my legs go a little and stop pushing uphill for the first time in 40 minutes. This sudden relaxation caused a surge of nausea to sweep over me and before I knew it I was vomiting sugary water as I went down the hill. Excellent – another achievement unlocked: puking during a race. At this point I was just glad that the gut failure had headed north, not south.

There was a second water stop at Mile 5 manned by the Stonehaven Rotary Club, thankfully fully stocked with bottles of water and distributed by their cheery members. I had planned to take a gel at mile 5 so set about the task of getting it open – sadly I was a bit enthusiastic and it ended up squirting it over my face and into my hair a la Something About Mary. I rammed the fluid down my throat and washed it down with water, hoping that it would stay where it belonged.

The next few miles all kind of blur together and can be summed up in brief – hot, ow, sweat, groan, doom. I don’t know which point on the course it was, but I had my first experience of a Fetchpoint. I’ll leave the Fetch dictionary to define this one – “Initiated and kindled by the FE supporters group at mile 22 of the London Marathon, especially Max71, Stumpy and John66, and now spreading the globe, what better way to feel inspired to run, than a luminous mass of screaming groupies offering a variety of food, drink, massage, and other extras. Described as the running equivalent of an orgasm.”

Fetch is a British running website – a bit like facebook for runners. You can talk about just about anything in the forums, log training and track progress, look up training plans and tips, and the members are it’s shining ambassadors. Distinctive by their red and luminous yellow tshirts/vests at races across the country, if you do a race in the UK you’re guaranteed to find a ‘Fetchie’ there, either running or supporting. In some of the bigger UK marathons and halfs, if there is a big local Fetch presence they get together and form a ‘Fetchpoint’ to motivate everyone as well as they can with every resource they can get their hands on. I was greeted by the Eye Of The Tiger blaring from car stereos, super soakers filled with cold water and more jelly beans. What a lift! I had been running by what felt like just myself for so long it was so lovely so see so many happy smiling faces cheering me on.

At Mile 8 I really got a sense that I was going to be ok and that I was going to make it just fine. As I’ve said before – the more I run, the more I’m discovering when my tipping points are, and I now know that 8 miles is usually when my legs are ready to start getting serious. It also helped that the course turned back towards the sea and there was a great view down to Stonehaven, glistening in the distance 5 miles away. 5 miles? Pfft! Easy! Let’s go!

I started picking people off one by one – I spotted them in the distance and pushed it a bit until I over took them. One by one I reeled them in; my steps shortened, my pace quickened and soon I was running sub-9:00 miles. There was a little hill at Mile 10 which I walked up to catch my breath a little, but other than that I felt like I was flying. Open Up by Leftfield was repeated several times before my playlist shifted from the sublime to the obscene with Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson featuring heavily.

The course followed the road back in to town and soon enough there were people out cheering in their back gardens again as I got tantalisingly closer to the finish. The sea got bigger and bigger as I ticked off the last couple of miles. I had my sprint finish all planned – no matter how much I had suffered on the course I was going to cross that line like a BOSS. The last part of mile 12 wound down the steep road which we had climbed over two hours earlier and was hard to get any speed up on. I had to be especially careful going around the steep turns as my legs were shot – they could basically go one direction only which was in a straight line.

Finally, we were running down the road where we started. There were a small group of people ahead of me…they are all mine, I thought. I looked ahead as the course curved back into the park, threw my water bottle to the side and dropped the bomb. Attack! Attack! Attack! I whooshed around the group of runners on the outside of the bend and pumped my arms and legs as fast as I possibly could.

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One of the girls surged when I passed her but I pushed harder and in the end I outsprinted her and crossed finish line 6 places further up the field than I had been at 13 miles.

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Vicky was the first person I saw when I crossed the line and she put my medal around my neck as I stumbled over the line Smile

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I was so close to throwing up here; the only thing which stopped me was the amount of people around me – apparently I still do have a shred of public decency, who knew?!

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I spotted a chair and decided to head for it.

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George came up behind me and said something but I have no idea what it was! I sat myself down and a lady cut my chip off and another handed me a cup of water. I looked up, and there was Colin! He had got the bus down in time for the finish – I was so glad to see him, I had a niggle in the back of my mind that he’d miss the bus or get lost and miss me coming in at the finish. I needn’t have worried though, he was there of course, and he brought Neil too!

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They got a good spot at the finish line in the sun.

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I’ve looked and felt better, but it eventually sunk in. 2 hours 15 minutes and 30 seconds later, I had finished a half marathon.

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Mike got a new personal best – 1hr 32minutes and 42 seconds.

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But sadly, it wasn’t quite what he needed. A new personal best, but no gold standard Sad smile The heat was a killer for us all.

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Here’s a bonus picture – I don’t quite know where to fit this in to this post; but how awesome is this dog?! Is it a polar bear? Is is a dog? I want to hug it! It’s gorgeous!

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Polar Dog!

After I had caught my breath and regained most of my composure, I got a couple of ice packs for my knees and got changed out of my sweaty clothes. I kept my medal on though Smile We all went down to the Marine for a good feed and some ales and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the harbour wall soaking up the evening sun before heading back up to Aberdeen.

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So I’ve got another medal to add to my collection. It might be the smallest, but it represents the most.

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I’ve almost got enough to fill a medal hanger! A couple more and I might need to invest in something nice from Allied Steel

I feel happy I completed the race and the distance in a respectable time. I feel a bit…underwhelmed though. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve ran the distance and more before so I wasn’t accomplishing anything new in terms of length ran? Because I feel I could have done better? I feel like I should be pleased and proud given the circumstances, but I feel a bit robbed of my full potential for my first half.

Oh well – races end, running doesn’t. I’ll have another shot in two weeks time at the Dundee Half Marathon to do better. It’s a flattish course, as long as I suffer no ill effects from this race I’ll have it in the bag.