14th August 2011 – RBG Dyce Half Marathon
2hr 11min 3secs – New personal best!
104th/112 finishers, Gender 18/25, Age group 6th/10.
I have to be honest here and say that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this race. For two reasons – firstly, I knew that it was going to be a tiny, fast race and that I would be one of the last, if not THE last finishers. Secondly, my long runs have been so inconsistent recently with bad pace, tummy troubles and sore feet; that frankly I was just dreading having to go out and torture myself yet again. I thought I knew no-one else that was doing this race and I was mentally preparing myself for a tough, lonely ride.
Earlier in the week however, I was reminded that my friends and fellow Loch Ness Marathon first-timers, Ian and Donna would be racing too which was a great relief! Even just knowing there’d be friends around was an odd encouragement; that was one of the things I didn’t particularly enjoy about Dundee – having no-one to bounce banter off of at the start or to hug and congratulate at the end! As it happened I’m beginning to get to know more runners around the village that is Aberdeen than I thought, and there were some Fetch friends and other familiar faces to greet as well.
We arrived at the Scout hut at around 9am – Badger was just dropping me off as there was nothing around of any interest for him during the two hours I’d be on the out and back course. He headed home and was to return to see me across the finish line later on. I met up with Ian and Donna and we all revealed that we were pretty nervous for this race. It was their first half and their longest race so far (although Donna raced a 15mile stint of the Highland Fling Relay in April) so their first time nerves were showing a little. I was desperately nervous that my tummy would play up again – which in turn was making me feel even more sick, so doing myself no favours at all.
We hovered around the Scout Hut observing the other runners – this race was run by Metro Aberdeen Running Club, regarded my many as the fastest club in the North East. That may or may not be true, but you certainly don’t join their club if you’re intending to mess around. Long legged and lithe of limb, we were surrounded by ‘proper’ runners who looked like they meant business – it was hard not to feel a little bit intimidated, but I just concentrated on keeping calm and being thankful that my training has now safely ascended to the point where racing a half marathon on a Sunday morning is not a hair-raising prospect any more. A quote from the running gospel of Lululemon came to mind; “Breathe deeply and appreciate the moment”.
The race was due to start at 10am, but they waited until everyone had had the chance to use the toilet first, given that there were only three (THREE!) toilets available at race HQ. I took a place at the back of the crowd with Ian and Donna and a whistle went…here we go, half marathon number three has begun…
The race commenced with a circuit of the playing field and then it headed out the old Formartine and Buchan railway line for 6.5 miles and came back. Simple, and no fuss. My goal as usual, was to start out steady and remember that my legs take a few miles to ease into a nice stride, before upping my pace towards the end to create a lovely negative split. I plodded happily along at 10:00ish minute miles as the field stretched out ahead of me. Donna and Ian were behind me and a couple more people but I was aware of nobody close. I plugged in Metallica’s S+M album and settled in for the long haul.
Mile 1: 9.39
Mile 2: 10:00
Mile 3: 10:16
The sun was out and blazing heat down on us when the trail wasn’t covered by trees. I was very grateful for the first water station at 3.5miles, especially when I saw they had bottles. I had to decide whether to hold on to it or not – I don’t like things in my hands when I run but given the heat it might have been beneficial. I decided to ditch this one after I had drank my fill and re-assess at the 5.5mile water point. My tummy wasn’t feeling great – I began retching after I drank the water and I battled hard to keep miserable thoughts from creeping in. I’d be lying if I didn’t have a few minutes of dodgy talk with myself.
“why am I doing this I hate my body it is so rubbish once I get this marathon over I’m never ever doing another one again even if I do get a place in London I don’t want to be an ultrarunner I don’t care any more I hate my life make it stop stopp it stoppitstoppitstoppittt!!!!!”
At exactly mile 4.67, the leader passed me on his way back to the finish. I didn’t recognise him but he looked like a gladiator – tall, muscular and lycra clad. He was followed a few minutes later by several other small, skinny, speedy, sweaty men with grimaces on their faces even Picasso couldn’t make up. After the leaders and chasers zoomed by it was a lot more jovial with nods and smiles as we passed by each other which kept me entertained until the stream of runners petered out and it was just us merry plodders still working towards the half way point again.
Mile 4: 10:44
Mile 5: 10:47 gel taken
Mile 6: 10:31
There was more water at mile 5.5 and I kept a hold of it this time. I was able to squish it into a shape I could grip with the heel of my hand and my fingers and so keep my fingers relaxed. At the half way point there was a man with a camera and a line spray-painted across the track who gave me encouragement as I pulled an about-turn and started the return journey to the finish line. At this point there were 4 people behind me – a man, a woman and Ian and Donna running together and bringing up the rear.
I was feeling much better now and my legs were feeling great. Without really thinking about it I gradually sped up and the lady in front of me became closer and closer – and then I passed her! I got a little boost from that and then focused on running towards the coloured blob in the distance which was the next runner. I pretty much zoned out here and all thoughts and feelings ceased to exist other than left, right, left, right, left, right…. I passed another runner and another, and the miles kept on slipping away.
Mile 7: 10:11
Mile 8: 9:50 gel taken
Mile 9: 9:28
Mile 10: 9:19
I felt like I was flying – my legs were working, my tummy was working, my head was happy and all systems were go for a great time! I tried not to do the maths in my head but I guessed I’d be fairly close to my goal time of sub 2hrs 10 mins if I kept this up. It was beginning to get so warm though – the wildflowers on the sides of the track were beautiful, but their pollen clagged my lungs, the fireweed was the most vibrate shade of cerise but the floating seeds in the breeze were perilous if one caught in your eye or made it’s way into your mouth. It was lovely to run past cows and horses, but the stink of manure in the heat would be enough to turn the strongest runner’s stomach.
I had to have strong words with myself at mile 11 to keep the pressure on my pace – quitters don’t get sub 2hr10! Finishing medals aren’t given they’re EARNED! There will be a day when you cannot do this, but today is NOT that day…
Mile 11: 9:59
Mile 12: 9.44 gel taken as last resort
Mile 13: 9:31
.10 nubbin: 0.55s
The last mile was fully exposed in the harsh midday sun and I could feel myself burning. My feet were in shreds and I had new blisters on both my arches and I just felt like I had nothing left to give. I overtook one last runner but he caught me again as I entered the field. I’d been hoping that we just ran straight in to the field to the finish, but it was another race where you had to pass the finish and then circumvent an entire football pitch before finally crossing the line! So cruel!
Lap of honour my arse. Lap of agony more like! I don’t know how that guy survived in heavy BLACK cotton sweat pants and a tshirt.
And done. I grasped my medal and goody bag and staggered a few steps out of the finishing chute and got off my feet as soon as I could.
Oh the sweet agony of success. Looking at these pictures again – I remember how much it hurt, I remember the terrific pain in my lungs, legs and feet…but this?
…made it all worth it. A third consecutive personal best time at half marathon distance. Sure it’s not going to cause any ripples to anyone else other than me, but I fought damn hard for that time and all memories of the agony are gone.
I removed my shoes to free the beasts, to find that things were just as bad as I thought!
Poor feets. They have carried me far – 482 miles this year in fact. By the time I cross the finish line in Inverness that figure will be nearing 700. Again, worth it
I like this medal, it’s a great addition to the collection. I spent the rest of the day floating on a fantastic runner’s high – Less than a year ago I was feeling a bit jealous of my friends who were out achieving stuff that I wasn’t. In fact if you’d told me that by now I would have completed three half marathons and I was 7 weeks away from the start of my first marathon, I would have advised you to go and get your medication changed. What a difference a year, and a change of heart makes. Instead of wasting time lamenting your failures, get out and make some new successes – whatever you want to do, it’s probably within your reach, you just need to find out the best way to get you there. Impossible is nothing; just never, ever give up.
Here’s the Duggan’s finishing their first half marathon together: