Stonehaven Half Marathon
1st July 2012
1hr 59 mins 14 secs – NEW PB!
Overall – 199th/267
Category – 26th/46
Gender – 35th/75
I’ve done it! I have finally cracked the two hour mark at the Half Marathon! And on the notorious hills of the Stonehaven Half Marathon no less. What a great way to celebrate the anniversary of completing my first half – by knocking 16 minutes off my previous time and finally ducking under two hours.
I have to preface this report by admitting that I ran this race like a lunatic. I do not want to hear about anyone taking hints or tips from this race strategy as it’s risky and you will pay dearly in DOMS in the days to follow! The best lesson I’ve learned in running to date from one of the best runners I know to date is; “Don’t be a d*ck”, and I’ll freely admit that I race this race like a d*ck. It paid off though, so what can I say…I guess sometimes it pays to throw caution to the wind. Now, on with the report…
The best thing about this race for me this year, is that my boyfriend lives half a mile from the starting area, so I got a lovely lie in on race morning. I got up at a very civilised 9am and ate a muller rice and a banana with some coffee and electrolyte drink. Pre-race dinner had been as usual, Pizza (topped with mushroom, pineapple, onion and jalapenos), and I didn’t feel the need to eat much more.
We headed down to registration around 10:15am and were greeted by a smiley and cheerful Vicki who was fully recovered from the West Highland Way Race but on registration and medal duty for Stonehaven Running Club, who organise the race. It is such a friendly race that it’s impossible not to feel welcomed despite the small size and relatively high number of local elite machines on the starting line. The talk on everyone’s lips was the hills and how we were going to deal with them; I made no secret of the fact that I wasn’t going to be a hero and would be walking whenever I felt the need, some were going for a slow but steady strategy, others were just hoping to cling on to dear life! In case you need a reminder of why this race is considered one of the toughest halfs in Scotland, here’s the course profile:
I was very proud of Kynon for stepping up to the challenge of making his first half marathon his local race, despite its notorious difficulty. He seemed to be taking very much the attitude I had the year previous – that he may as well jump straight in at the deep end and then it will only get easier!
There were lots of other familiar faces; a reasonable Fetch crowd and many local runners that I know. Just after 11am everyone began making their way to the starting area and just as last year we were lined up along a single track road next to Mineralwell Park.
A short, completely unintelligible race briefing ensued (get a megaphone!), and the klaxon went. Half Marathon #7 was go!
My goals for this race were as follows:
a) Beat Kynon
b) Get a PB (previous PB was 2:01:50 set in April at Rock n Roll Edinburgh)
c) Run super hard and leave nothing on the course
d) Beat Kynon
I’m not usually so competitive, but I love the Half Marathon; it’s my favourite road event, and I was not going to let my boyfriend hit the finish line of his first half before me. No way, not a chance, not happening. Not even on this tough Mother of a course. We’ve ran a few races together now, both sticking together and running separately, but for this race it was on ’til the break of dawn. Operation smack down. May the fastest pair of legs win.
Kynon’s training had gone well but he had picked up a calf strain a couple of weeks ago at Parkrun. He was worried and stressed about the new challenge (his longest run had been 10 miles) but I had a sneaking suspicion that he was going to do just fine, and therefore presented a genuine threat. I also suspected that he was/is a good contender for being a typical male beginner runner – start running with a female friend, enjoy it, get good at it, then one day wake up and run a race twice as fast as her all of a sudden. This is a genuine runnergirl problem experienced most recently by both myself and Rachel with our male friends. Kynon has a solid athletic base from years and years of rugby, football and volleyball training and I think it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through the ceiling and busts out some incredible times, leaving me in his dust.
Back to the race. Almost immediately after crossing the timing mats you’re on an incline which does not end until 4 miles in to the race. I took the breathtakingly steep Belmont Brae climb slowly and relaxed as many people passed me. I knew I’d run them down later in the race – the key to this course is to start slow. If you think you might be going too fast then you probably are! As we left Stonehaven I saw Kynon in the crowd passing me on the other side of the road; this didn’t bother me though as I knew I’d catch him soon enough; before I knew it he was off and out of sight.
mile 1 – 9:21
mile 2 – 9:04
mile 3 – 9:56
mile 4 – 11:25 gave in to the hill and walked a bit
At the top of the hill there was the piper, although as I passed him he was having a breather. Not very motivational pal, the runners don’t get a break at this point so HTFU and keep going! We need you!
I had scheduled 40 minutes of chilled out music for the first 4 miles and then my playlist would pick up in tempo alongside my pace, as miles 5 and 6 were downhill. I was ready to take back Kynon’s lead! It felt so good to use a different set of muscles as I let my legs wheel down the hill, passing everyone in sight. This was my first somewhat d*ckish move of the day – I’m sure everyone I passed must have thought what an idiot I was to be blasting away in the first half, but I didn’t care as I was running my own ridiculous race chasing my boyfriend who was annoyingly still out of sight. I kept on seeing someone that looked like him but then they kept disappearing around corners so I wasn’t sure how far away he was. I caught up with Rachel at about half way and pulled up alongside her for a second to blurt out “I’ve got to catch Kynon! I can almost see him!!!” before passing her and barreling away down the hill.
mile 5 – 8:06
mile 6 – 8:10
Half way saw us pass the Fetchpoint – a mobile unit of all-star cheerleaders equipped with water guns, jelly babies and ‘the eye of the tiger’ on repeat. “How far ahead is he?!” I gulped as I passed, “Not far…!“ I heard them calling after me…
Mile 7 is another mile completely uphill so I took a couple of walking breaks here and was passed by some of the people who I had passed on the downhill. I knew this would happen but it still irked me – I know what runs smugly through my mind when I pass people who have previously overtaken me and are walking; but everything was going to plan so far for my idiotic race so I was happy. Mile 8 is a plateau of sorts and it was here when I finally saw Kynon up ahead and was was able to gradually reel him in. He was definitely running slower than I was so my prediction of me being able to maintain a stronger pace for longer than him had come true. I stuck on his heels for a little while to catch my breath so I could pass him strongly, I thought about what if anything to say but my mind was beginning to disintegrate beyond congitive thought so I just stroked his shoulder as I went by.
mile 7 – 10:09
mile 8 – 9:10
Now that the ‘main goal’ had been achieved I needed to keep my head in the game and keep running hard. I knew for the most part it was downhill to the finish but my legs were tiring and my quads were aching so it wouldn’t be that easy. I had my garmin set to show my average pace rather than total time so I had no idea if I was on for a PB or not. I decided to do what I did at Edinburgh in April and Fraserburgh in November, and hold off looking at my time until mile 12 whilst running as hard as I could, and then see where I was at. I think this method works for me – if I don’t know how much time I’ve taken I’m encouraged to keep going harder, if I already know I’ve lost a chance at a PB then I’m prone to just quit at pace-pushing. My race-weary mind starts thinking ‘why bother with this pain – it’s all for nothing’, if I don’t know what’s happening I can keep convincing myself I have a chance at glory. I had loosely entertained a sub-2 time before the race as Vicki swore it was possible due to the downhill elements of the course making up for the inclines and more. I wasn’t totally convinced but I knew I could give it a good try as long as I kept the pressure on my pace.
There was a small hill which I walked up where Kynon passed me again, I promptly leapfrogged him when we were going down the other side and increased the gap between us for good. I am better at running downhill than Kynon so this was my time to shine, even though my legs were hurting and I was beginning to feel sick I wouldn’t let myself give up. I kept telling myself that he was hot on my heels and the possibility was always there that he could beat me! I never looked back once though.
mile 9 – 8:01
mile 10 – 9:04
mile 11 – 9:54
At mile 11.5 there was the final water stop which I walked through and a little bit beyond until I was up the incline of the bridge over the dual carriageway back into Stonehaven. I wanted to catch my breath before the final vomit-threshold push I was planning for the finish. Annoyingly the race photographer caught me walking!! I look so cross, but I really wasn’t.
As planned I looked at my watch at mile 12 and it said 1:50something! I was so elated and shouted “YAS! SUB TWO!!” to no-one in particular. I was ready to properly horse it to the finish line and picked up my pace for a few seconds before checking how fast I was actually going at the time – low 8:XX pace so no real need to break myself at this point. Unless I tripped over, sub-2 was well in the bag so there was no glory sprint required until the finishline was actually in sight.
It’s just as well I caught myself as I was beginning to feel very nauseated and was also needing the toilet quite badly. Mike popped up suddenly on my right and took a picture – I’m very surprised I look so capable in it as I felt like a burst sofa at this point. I was very ready to be done for the day!
Then it was back down the perilliously steep Belmont Brae, around a hairpin bend and back on the track towards the finish in the field. I dared not to look at my watch as I gave it the last bit of juice I possibly had to push hard across the field. I heard the announcer call my name and straight ahead of me across the finish was Vicki jumping up and down screaming and clapping, with finishers’ medals jangling around her arms!
I lurched around a bit on my feet as I struggled to catch my breath and not vomit all over Vicki as she hugged me and put my medal around my neck. Dave and George were there at the finish to offer congratulations as well and my friends Claire and Adam were leaning on the barriers cheering as well which was great to see. I found a seat and concentrated on keeping all bodily fluids inside myself for a few minutes – it was touch and go for a while!
I eagerly awaited Kynon’s arrival, I knew he wouldn’t be long but was a bit worried in case he might be hurting. He came into the field limping a bit but put on a good finishing sprint and crossed the line strongly in 2:01:44 – an amazing time for a first half, especially on this course!
pictures by Adam Westwell
Somewhere around mile 8 his calf injury had started really hurting as well as his hip flexors. I was so proud of him, he’d done so well.
All in all it was a pretty good day at the office for both of us. I’m very pleased to have knocked another goal off my 2012 list and on the most unexpected of courses as well, yet again without specific training. This means of course that there is more time to come off for me, but the next attempts at this distance will be at Aviemore in October and Fraserburgh again in November.
Kynon will, I’m sure, continue to get faster; but for now he will spend the rest of the summer and autumn training and playing rugby so I’ve got plenty of time to get myself a pair of even speedier legs to keep myself ahead of him.
The next 8 weeks for me will be all about the Moray Marathon which is on the 2nd of September. It’s time to embrace high mileage and ‘hell month’! July will be my highest monthly mileage ever – 198 miles – but I think I’ll find a way to tack on another two to round it up to a nice 200.