24th March 2013
RunGarioch Half Marathon
Time: 1hr 56m 52s
(from my watch; the chip timing system was not used, for an unknown reason.)
After four straight days of howling gales and relentless snow, I had really, really hoped that the weather system threatening to ruin today’s race would have moved on. Predictably enough, when my alarm went off at 0630 this morning there was no change at all in the weather and the wind was still raging in off the North Sea. Stonehaven bay looked like a washing machine and the gales were providing great challenge to any human who wished to remain standing vertical, let alone move forward. This was interspersed with blasts of icy hail and swirling snowflakes coming from every direction. Less than perfect conditions for running let alone racing, but the race wasn’t going to run itself so it was time to man up, layer up, and get on the bus to Inverurie.
I was car-sharing with Ronnie, Rachel and a couple of other runners leaving from Aberdeen so I hopped on the bus up. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Scotrail and Stagecoach for making life so difficult for those living outside of what passes for civilisation in Aberdeen – the first train on a Sunday isn’t until 1010, and the first direct bus isn’t until 0930. At 0740 I ended up on a slow-poke bus tour of every commuter town South of Aberdeen on a journey which took over an hour, all in the name of making my travel more GREEN and SUSTAINABLE. If the Council/Government/Men In Black are truly dedicated to getting more of us out of our cars and on to public transportation, then it needs to be made far more frequent and accessible. People need to get places on every day of the week – why is Sunday even considered anything other than a normal day for timetabling these days?
Anyway; I digress. So five runners piled into Ronnie’s Astra and made our way North towards the Garioch. Normally this would be a journey of jokes and hilarity but it was obvious the weather was weighing heavily on us and nobody was showing any outward enthusiasm at all.
I had decided that layers were the only way forward and dressed in the following: 2 pairs of running tights, Under Armour coldgear base layer, t-shirt, merino wool long sleeve, cotton long sleeve, and club vest with a soft shell windbreaker on top. Two buffs, two pairs of gloves, and a hardy grimace against the wind. I’m not usually one to make much of a fuss about the cold, after all I certainly don’t run well in the heat, but today was particularly vicious so I wasn’t taking any chances.
After arriving and parking at Morrison’s we made our way to the Sports Centre to get registered which for me was no problem. Unfortunately Rachel found herself victim of the first of a catalogue of errors experienced throughout the day and despite having paid for her entry months ago, was not on the start list. I’ll let Jon, sorry I mean Rachel, explain the rest of the situation HERE.
The Sports Hall was mobbed – there were several junior races happening and of course if Child A is running a race, Mum, Dad, Grunny and Granda, all four bairns and the babby in a buggy need to attend as well; so you can imagine the chaos that ensued. No-one wanted to be out in the Siberian weather any longer than they had to so the whole Sports Centre was a seething mass of humanity. It was around about then that we found out that there had been some kind of problem with the chip timing system as well so the race would not be officially timed. I think at this point we were all ready to pack it in and go home…
Note the snow falling. This is late March. MARCH!
Thankfully 10:30am and the start of the Half Marathon came quickly and we were soon lined up outside. I became separated from the rest of the gang but it was OK as we had different goals – I just wanted it over as quickly as possible and was planning on running like I stole something, the others were going to be more sedate.
The gun went off and we headed off out into a housing estate. I recognised it from running the 10k two years ago although it was hard to see anything with the blizzard of hail firing into my face. I did not regret a single layer I was wearing. Heading out into the country and seeing the thick snow I couldn’t believe this was the end of March! After we got out of Inverurie it was quite scenic and I was enjoying my surroundings, but the road was very undulating and there were icy patches to look out for as well.
In terms of time, I knew I wanted to come in under 2 hours but I wasn’t aiming for anything in particular. I knew if I kept under 9 minute miles the frozen horror would be over as soon as possible without doing much damage, and I figured I would do my usual move of making slow progress up the hills and blasting down the other side to make up time.
8:19, 8:30, 8:57, 8:47, 9:18
On the rare occasions we were sheltered from the wind I became a little uncomfortably warm, but there was always a quick draft to freeze me up again. I ended up taking my gloves off which made regulating my temperature easy, but meant I had to carry them. There was supposed to be a water station at mile 4.5, but all there was was an empty table and a box of cups. I’m glad I wasn’t relying on that for refreshment… I took my usual gel at 5 miles and continued, albeit grumpily. “Run faster, woman; get this over with!!”
9:21, 9:24, 9:47, 8:25, 8:47
The middle miles got a bit hilly and my pace slowed to match, but it felt good to fly down the other sides where I was able to make up some places. Around mile 8 we seemed to turn a corner and all shelter just disappeared and the wind hit us full pelt – hours later my skin is still glowing from the assault. Much like last week at the D33 I just locked down my senses and powered on, I don’t really remember anything much after this other than thinking the course would be short, but in the end it was bang on 13.1 miles.
9:09, 9:14, 8:13.
There were some hardy spectators awaiting their runner at the finish and I saw my friends Scott and Fiona who were waiting on Niall to finish his first half. I got my medal and t-shirt (or tent, really – they only had Large left after the 5 and 10k finished earlier. I’m sure Kynon will look great in it…) and grabbed a banana and some water and waited for the rest of the gang whilst catching up with Scott and Fiona. Rachel was next in, followed by Teri and then Ronnie a little later on in about 2:15 I think. Niall finished his first half in 2:25ish I think and was very pleased. Once everyone was in we got straight back to the car to warm up, but not before nipping into Morrison’s to demolish the Bakery aisle.
I was actually really pleased with my performance in this race. It’s another finish comfortably under 2 hours, but this time with a 33 mile race fresh in my legs. It’s a good sign that there is much more to come off my half marathon time – especially as the days HOPEFULLY get warmer soon. I’m beginning to realise that the next few months after the Fling is out of the way, are going to be all about pushing myself a bit further out of my comfort zone. What today and last week have taught me is that I’m perfectly capable of holding a somewhat uncomfortably fast pace for an extended period of time without too much bother, which means getting faster is well within my grasp. Training with the club will really help with this.
In the past I’ve always been quite pleased with the fact that I always negative split half marathons, but what this really means is that I’m starting my races off too slowly. I need to stop starting steadily and just shove myself off into the deep end and get a move on!
As for RunGarioch… it’s frustrating because I really want to love these races but the multiple things that went wrong make it really hard. The issue with the chip timing is huge – I pay money to enter a race because I want to be chip timed and have an official UKA recognised time for this distance. If I just wanted to go for a 13.1 mile run and check the time on my watch I wouldn’t be paying £22 for the privilege. Since I don’t now have an official time, I can’t use this race for our club standards (info here) which is disappointing as it would have qualified as part of a Bronze award.
There wasn’t enough water on the course two years ago and again the same problem cropped up with the missing water station at 4.5 miles (there was water at 7 and 10.5ish though). This isn’t a problem for me, but for many people it will have disrupted their race. If you promise something then the runners have a right to expect it! I’m irritated by the sizing of the t-shirt as well, because if they’d kept seperate t-shirts aside for each race then the half marathoners wouldn’t have been stuck with the giant ones after the 5k and 10k finished. Of course I’m sure there are a few gentlemen that will fit them perfectly, but for the rest of us they’re like dresses.
They might be little gurns, but when there’s multiple little gurns it really brings down the effectiveness of the whole event. They do a LOT at this event and I wonder if it needs to be spread out a bit – managing 100s of kids is a nightmare at the best of times, so why not do those races on the Saturday and keep the mess away from the 5k, 10k and Half events? The timing and entry system failure appears to be the work of Race Timing Systems again, who have featured in several local event problems including Baker Hughes 10k last year. That’s clearly out of the organisers hands, but it is becoming obvious the more races I do that the Race Timing System D-tags that they use are pretty temperamental and the company themselves are not reliable. I hope that there are other options out there as they are bringing down the reputations of decent, well organised races.