Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Category: Life (page 1 of 25)

Edinburgh Life

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m writing this from my couch in Stonehaven with day two of the Olympics playing on television in the background. I should be basking in a post-run glow,  having just completed my last long run before the Speyside Way Ultra, but instead I’m feeling a little queasy and quite frankly, a little traumatised, after suffering a great disagreement with some food I ate last night. I thought I’d take this rare opportunity of spare time to write a catch-up post and attempt to compensate for my inconsistent blogging of late.

edinburgh castle

Life in Edinburgh

I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a little over two months now and have settled in to my new job well. I work in the city centre and have been enjoying walking three miles to and from work every day, exploring the opportunities that my new location has on offer, and soaking up the amazing atmosphere which Edinburgh is famous for. It is not without its challenges however, and now that initial sheen of excitement of living a new city has worn off,  working through various issues is testing my patience at times.

forth road bridge

The biggest frustration is that I am still living in Edinburgh by myself; I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned that here, but Kynon is still working in Aberdeen and living in Stonehaven with Saskia. I get the train down to Edinburgh at 6am on a Monday and arrive back in Stonehaven at 9pm on a Friday. It is a tiresome lifestyle which has presented considerable barriers to truly settling into my new city and making new friends. After commuting, work, and training has been done, there is no time to do anything else but eat and go to bed.


That makes me sound very disciplined, but as anyone who might follow my Strava account would know,  I’ve not been running all that much!  So far for me, 2016 has been the summer of bugs… the first two weeks I was in Edinburgh I had a nasty cold with a cough that took ages to shake, and then a couple of weeks after that I caught another cold which turned into a chest infection which took two weeks to clear. It has been so frustrating and I feel like my fitness has really taken a hit with a lack of consistent training.

Speyside Way Ultra Training

My ‘goal’ race this summer is the Speyside Way, and I’d been hoping to train strongly over the summer in hope of being able to claim a huge PB. Last year I ran it conservatively as I ran the Fare Challenge the next day, so there is a big chunk to come off my time. However, my training has been severely impacted by having two periods of illness, and has lost all sense of direction. I had written a plan for myself to include speed and hills each week as well as an easy run and a back-to-back at the weekend, but I’ve been lucky to complete even half of my scheduled sessions and there has certainly been no speedwork to speak of.

In terms of long runs this summer, Kynon and I ran to Musselburgh and back one Saturday for a 20 mile run, but I had to bail at 14.5 miles due to my chest infection.


We had a successful 24 mile run from Stonehaven to Aberdeen via Drumoak.


We attempted a Pentland Skyline run (16 miles) in lieu of the Fort William Marathon (*more on that below) but ended up cutting the route short at 4.5 miles because it was and I wasn’t coping with the massive elevation. In total the run came in at about 8.5 miles in two and a half hours. I was so disappointed and embarrassed – the route just chewed me up and spat me out, and provided a sharp reminder of what poor shape I’m in right now.

pentland skyline

And then there was today’s planned 20 miles on road, which has just not happened. Thankfully, after 15 ultramarathon finishes, I am blessed with the kind of daft confidence which means I know I will still complete the race, but I didn’t want to just ‘complete’ this one. I will give it everything I’ve got, but I suspect my performance may not be anything to write home about. I finished in 7 hours and 4 minutes last year; I was hoping to take an hour off my time and perhaps even duck under 6 hours…

* Unfortunately I was unable to use my place in the Fort William Marathon because of accommodation difficulties, and big issues with transport. I have no car down in Edinburgh and ScotRail ever so kindly were striking on the day of the race. There was really no way to make it work, so I had to email my apologies and DNS the race 🙁

Where do I go from here?

I feel like a bit of a lost at the moment, as I have done for much of the last year. It is very hard not to compare myself to where I was X months ago and long to be that thinner, faster version of myself. After 8 months of unemployment, I’ve not been in a good place mentally or physically for quite a while and I need to recognise that coming back from that cannot happen overnight. I know I’m going in the right direction with a new job and a new career, but it really doesn’t help that the circumstances under which that is happening means I am living apart from my husband and all that is dear to me. It is making it really hard to move on when I’ve still got one foot stuck in a different city, but that’s just how it has to be right now.

Obviously Edinburgh offers a wealth of fitness opportunities and I have been paying attention to what is happening, even if I haven’t trying anything new yet. I have chosen a running club to try out however I haven’t made it along to a session yet due to my colds, but I think this week might be the week I’m ready to put my brave pants on and go and meet some new runners. Also this week and throughout the rest of August, the Edinburgh Lululemon store is running free lunchtime fitness classes to celebrate the festival. I work just around the corner so it’s a perfect location, and doing something a bit different (like Piloxing or Voga!) will be fun.

There is also the crazy concept that is ‘Project Awesome‘. A free fitness class on top of Calton Hill every Wednesday morning…at 6:30am. I really like the idea but I just can’t see how I can make it work with that early start. My Achilles heel in fitness is my hatred of early mornings – in fact, if only I could train myself to do my running before work (perhaps even running to work) then I could free up my evenings to enjoy Edinburgh a bit more. I’ve said a few times – I wish I could clone myself so I could join an evening class or a musical group, and still keep up my (meagre attempts at) training, but the only way around that is to embrace early morning exercise…

To conclude; I’m not really sure what I’m doing next, but I know I’m looking forward to Speyside in two weeks and I’m beginning to think about 2017 races too. Preliminary thoughts are perhaps a repeat of 2014, with a D33/Fling/Cateran build up to the Great Glen Ultra, with hopefully a road marathon in there too. I’ve entered both London and Tokyo Marathon ballots, so when the inevitable rejections come through for them, then I will look at some other options around Europe for marathon fun.


Have you ever had to live and work apart from your partner?
Are you an early morning runner? 
Have you entered any 2017 races yet?

Summer Running

It’s been a busy few weeks at Red Wine Towers and there are a lot of changes afoot. In the midst of it all I’ve been continuing to train as I’ve set myself some goals for the summer.  Let’s take a look at what I’ve got planned!

12th of June – Strathearn Marathon

strathearn marathon

After helping out and marshalling at the Cateran Trail races a couple of weeks ago, I came home with a lingering case of race envy. With nothing in my calendar until July and some itchy racing feet, I sneaked a little entry into this small but beautiful marathon. Renowned for its friendliness, the Strathearn Harriers put on a great show every year and the race has a super reputation. Naomi and I are heading down together and are very excited about the Squirrel medal we will be earning. I’ll be using this race as a gauging point for how I’m feeling and how much work needs to be done over the summer, with a goal of cruising around in 4hr 30ish.

3rd of July – Stonehaven Half Marathon

stonehaven half marathon

A return to my very first half marathon, except this year the course has totally changed! The course is now multi-terrain and takes runners from sea level all the way up 1000ft of elevation to Fetteresso Forest for a bit of a run around, before coming back down to the sea. The race has only grown its reputation for being the toughest half in Scotland, as now instead of the first 4.5 miles being up hill, it’s 7 miles of straight up hill. There’s no denying it; it’s going to hurt, but as long as I can get to the top then it’s a fun cruise back to town.

31st July – Fort William Marathon

fort william marathon

I won a place in this race a few months ago when I entered a competition on Twitter. The race starts and finishes at the Nevis Range mountain resort and takes in a circular route via Inverlochy, Gairlochy, and Spean Bridge. With 1200ft of elevation it’s a little bumpy, but I will be using this race as my last long training run for my final race of the summer.

20th August – Speyside Way Ultramarathon

speyside way ultra race

After enjoying the race so much last year, I really wanted to come back and give it another go. This year I am not attempting a half marathon the next day, so I am planning on target-training for this race specifically and going as fast as I can. Last year I ran over 7 hours, so I’d like to get a lot closer to 6 or maybe even under. Kynon is also doing the race so it will be a fun day out 🙂

As for the rest of the year, well I’ll figure that out when I get there. The changes I mentioned above will have quite an affect on what I get up to, because I won’t be living in Stonehaven any more! In fact, this time next week I’ll be packing the last of my bags and shipping off down to Edinburgh to start a new job. It’s all very exciting and I’m really pleased to be taking the next step in my career. This means that I’m on the look out for a new running club to train with and will sadly be hanging up my black and purple Stonehaven Kit. Ironically I’ve just renewed my membership and ordered a new hoodie, but I’ll always keep SRC as my second claim club whilst I’m in Scotland.

I’m really excited to be moving back to a big city again, but it will mean a lot less easy access to mountains to run up and forests to round around. We are truly spoiled in Aberdeenshire, but then which other city can claim to have a volcano in the centre of it? Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags will shortly become my new back garden so there will be no excuses for getting my legs primed for hills.

What’s on your calendar this summer?
What’s your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh?




8 Things To Consider for a Happy London Marathon Weekend

london marathon

image source: London Standard

Last weekend we traveled from Aberdeen to London so Kynon could run the London Marathon. After a catalogue of minor fails which resulted in the weekend falling seriously short of potential; I’ve put together some humorous thoughts which could be applicable to any major city marathon, especially one you’ve traveled a distance to attend…

1.Choose your hotel very carefully
This is really a no-brainer, but we made a poor choice in booking three nights at the Ibis Styles ExCel Centre. The hotel itself was largely acceptable (apart from paper thin walls and a bathroom that stunk of marijuana…but I’ll leave the rest of that moan for TripAdvisor), but the ExCel Centre is a lot further away from Central London than we expected. Whilst Kynon could walk to the Expo at the ExCel in five minutes, that was really the only benefit of this location which is 30 – 40 minute tube ride from Central London, and on the edge of a sketchy housing estate. Whilst it was good value, I would have happily paid double the rate to be closer to the London action. We booked in December, so if you are planning on doing London next year, then you need to get your hotel booked yesterday…

london marathon

2. Don’t get smashed in the 48 hours before the race
Another no-brainer really, but it’s amazing how easily these things happen. Being offered the opportunity to rendezvous with a selection of friends he hadn’t seen for a while, Kynon hit the pubs of London Bridge pretty hard on Friday night which made Saturday a bit of a nightmare for him. Spending the day before a marathon feeling pretty poorly will do nothing for your mental or physical preparation, and the dehydration will negatively impact your running. If anyone finds out how to make turning down the opportunity to drink good beers and catch up with friends on race weekend a fun and appealing option, let me know.

3. Don’t go to Camden Market on a Saturday
I don’t know what came over me, but I really wanted to do a bit of market shopping. I used to love going to Camden many years ago, but I somehow missed the change in the district from ‘intriguing alternative hive’ to ‘mainstream tourist hell-hole’. I’m somewhat misanthropic at the best of times, but I had to jump on a bus and GTF overland before I committed mass-murder with a Spanish tourists’ selfie stick. Critical London error: 2/10 could do better.

london marathon

4. Don’t go to NikeTown when you know you can’t afford it.
I love browsing the shiny new-season kit in Nike on Oxford St. I tend to purchase my kit when it’s months out of season and discounted massively on, so it’s nice to see what I’ll be wearing in about 18 months time. I spotted a pair of deliciously awesome £120 compression tights and was eyeing them up for the second time; I was almost about to reach for my wallet when an announcement came over the tannoy: “Attention! An incident has occurred! Please stand by for further instructions!”. The announcement was repeated several times before changing to an instruction to evacuate the building. Jeez. Ok. I know I’m broke but back off, man.  I put the gorgeous tights back on the hanger and followed staff instruction to evacuate to street level alongside four floors of active-wear lovers, and the entirety of Topshop Oxford St. It turns out they were evacuating the entire block. I was mildly alarmed, but I retreated to a safe distance and attempted to call Kynon to find out where he was. It turned out he had been in the customer toilet at the time; whether that had anything to do with the evacuation is TBD, but either way my attempts at purchasing kit I can’t afford were well and truly foiled.

5. Plan your pre-race dinner
Seriously though, this is so bread-and-butter, but we somehow dropped the ball here as well and ended up wandering the streets looking for an Italian which had availability for 4 on the night before the London Marathon. LOL. We found a vaguely acceptable looking pizza cafe which was half empty and ate a very average meal. It was crap. Do your research and make a booking before you even arrive in your race city – it’s not worth the hassle or disappointment to try and wing it.

london marathon

6. Plan your spectating route in advance
I did a pretty good job on this one, and managed to see Kynon twice and at the finish. I made the most of it by putting on my running kit and a CamelBak, and scooted between 9 miles, 11 miles, 24 miles, 22 miles, and back to the finish via the South Bank. I racked up a healthy 8 miles, saw many of my friends on their way, and particularly enjoyed watching the Championship and fast club runners gallop past at mile 24. There was some serious effort being deployed here which I found quite inspirational.

london marathon

7. If you must lose your Oyster Card, don’t do it on Marathon day
Nobody really wants to do this anyway, but I managed to lose mine with a healthy balance on it at some point on my marathon supporting jog. Tube stations near the route are utterly mobbed on marathon day so an attempt at purchasing day or single tickets will add considerable time to your journey, as well as added expense. Thankfully someone reminded me that I can use my contactless bank card to pay, but personally I am not really comfortable with sacrificing personal privacy and security for convenience, so it is not a long term solution for me. Farewell my trusty 10 year old Oyster Card – given to me by an old friend long disappeared in the sands of time, I have no idea who it is registered to and no way of retrieving the balance.

london marathon

8. Plan your post-Marathon celebrations with military precision
We all know how easy it is to fall into a bed or couch after a marathon, order delivery food, and not leave the house until you have to. That’s fine when you’re at home, but if you’re in a new city you’ll want to use your apres-race evening to soak up the last of the race atmosphere, exchange knowing nods across a bar with your fellow runners, wear your medal proudly, and generally cling on to as much of your race-cation time as possible. Hopefully you won’t have been as daft as us and booked a hotel in the middle of nowhere, but if you have, then you need to get a plan in place in advance in order to make the most of your evening. If not, risk of the following occurrences will occur: sitting in your hotel room saying ‘what do you want to do?’, ‘I don’t know, you?’, until you finally break free of the clutches of the Ibis Styles to head to the Canary Wharf area, because it’s easy to get to and there’s a Wetherspoons there that will do the job. Except, you will show up and the Wetherspoons will be inexplicably closed and you’ll find yourself wandering the empty streets of the Isle of Dogs looking for a restaurant or bar that isn’t a £200-a-head steakhouse. You will finally locate a curry house online which looks vaguely acceptable, only to find it is a tiny, deserted cave in a strip-mall next to a dual carriageway across from Westferry Station, with only two other customers in it. The curry will be crap, you will leave after one beer, and be back in the Ibis Styles taking a long hard look at yourself wondering how you managed to mess this up so badly.


So what is the overall lesson here, ladies and gentlemen? PLANNING. PLAN EVERYTHING. PLAN MORE. Piss poor planning promotes piss poor performance. We seriously messed up this one, and other than Kynon having a great race and pacing his lifelong friend around his first marathon to a 4:44 finish, the whole weekend was generally the extended disco remix of mediocrity. It really shouldn’t have been; we thought we could just wing it…how hard could it be to have a great weekend in one of the greatest cities in the world? Not hard at all, but it turns out that having a shit weekend is a lot easier than  we thought.

Have you ever had a race weekend disaster?

What are your tips for a stress-free race-cation?



The Running Awards 2016

The Running Awards

Back in March, an email arrived inviting me to attend The Running Awards and an event in London which was hosted by Strava. As a partner of The Running Awards, Strava invited a selection of their top bloggers and influencers to a pre-awards ceremony group run, drinks reception, Q+A session with Martin Yelling and the Strava team, and then attendance at the Running Awards themselves. Occasionally I get invited to events in London by PRs who haven’t noticed that I live 500 miles away, so I nearly deleted the email just like I do with all the others until I noticed that it was taking place on the 22nd of April and I was already going to be in London due to Kynon running the marathon. A rather fortuitous coincidence!

I was still initially a little unsure about attending as the timeline of the events seemed a little challenging – a 6k run, then 30 minutes to get ready for an awards ceremony? Not even with a full hair and makeup team on hand could I manage a turn-around that fast! However there was discussion about the event amongst members of a blogger group I am a part of and I realised that the real opportunity was to actually meet and spend an evening with many online blogger friends who I have connected with online for years, as well as to enjoy the evening as a whole.

The next challenge was to manage my hand-luggage only packing to include extra running kit and some evening attire for the awards ceremony. Thanks to my Mary Poppins-esque cabin bag I was able to squeeze everything in, and we arrived at our hotel from the airport about 30 minutes before I needed to be at the hotel where the events were being hosted. That was far too tight a margin for my control freak tendencies, but unfortunately this was not the first or the last failure of our London Marathon weekend… More on that in another post, but most importantly I was able to change and scoot out of the hotel quickly, and make it to North Greenwich tube station in time to arrive at the InterContinental Hotel at the O2 for the evening.

The first person I set eyes on as I walked on was the legendary Susie Chan, endurance runner extraordinaire and the latest world record holder of the women’s 12 hour treadmill run. I’ve been tweeting with Susie for years yet our paths have never crossed in real life, so it was lovely to finally meet her and her husband Shaun. We were given our goodie bags which contained; a gorgeous long sleeve Tracksmith top (athleisure at its finest!), a Wahoo Tickr bluetooth heart rate monitor, and a Strava drybag phone case. If we hadn’t already been spoiled enough, we were then paired up with another runner and given a key to one of the hotel rooms to use to store our belongings and wash and change for the awards. I should probably mention that the InterContinental 02 is a five star hotel, brand spanking new, and absolutely dazzling on the inside. Compared to my room for the weekend at the Ibis Styles Docklands it was somewhat of an upgrade…they were going to have to prise that room key out of my cold, dead hands!

After my roomie Bethan  and I had figured out the room technology (turning on the bathroom lights took us a bit longer than it ought to!) and got over the view over London from the stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, we headed back downstairs to meet the rest of the attendees and set out on the run. Unfortunately the weather really wasn’t up to much, but a group of about a dozen of us headed out in the first wave around ‘gritty’ East London in the rain.

The Running Awards

The 6k run took us along the Docklands on the Thames Path and then through to Greenwich Park, to the top of a hill with what should have been a lovely view over London. Despite the rain it was still a pretty place to pause and Susie captured a group selfie to mark the occasion:

The Running Awards

Picture – Susie Chan

The Running Awards

We arrived back at the hotel about 45 minutes later, and self-consciously squeaked our way across the beautiful marble floors of reception in our soaking wet kit. As if by magic we all reappeared back in the lobby shortly after looking far more presentable, and headed off to the Indigo venue at the 02 Arena for the drinks reception.

The Running Awards

I had my picture taken with Bethan, Polly, and Helen, before we were whisked up to the balcony area above the main stage for some glasses of champagne before the Q+A session, which was with renowned GB athlete and coach, Martin Yelling, CEO of parkrun, Tom Williams, and the Strava team.

The Running Awards

The session was fairly brief but some interesting points were covered. I was interested and encouraged to hear that Strava are currently working with local councils in some areas to provide heat-map data to Infrastructure design teams, in order to assist with the creation of cycle and runner friendly roads and paths.

The Running Awards

Next up was some delicious food and some more complimentary beverages, where I had the opportunity to meet and chat with a number of other online friends and bloggers; Helen, Elle, Sarah, Loz, Laura – it was great to finally meet you all! At 10pm the award ceremony started and we were lead downstairs to the awards floor where there were a couple of spare tables; in theory we were going to be given balcony seats, but the offer of getting a little closer to the action was much appreciated.

The Running Awards

The Running Awards have categories for just about everything you can think of, including; Best Marathon, Best Shoe, Best Sports Drink – all which were unsurprisingly awarded to the big guns such as London Marathon, Adidas, Nike and Lucazade. I was pleased to see awards for smaller more niche categories though, and am delighted that Aberdeen-born Run4It retained their title as Best Independent retailer, and also won the Best Customer Service award.

For the most part I retain a healthy degree of skepticism about online awards these days as the sector is now somewhat saturated, reducing the credibility of most of them. It seems like every brand has their own ‘best blog awards’ which essentially boil down to a marketing exercise for the brand, and retain the feeling of a playground popularity contest for the bloggers. It also goes without saying that any award where you can nominate yourself and then solicit for votes isn’t worth the energy it takes to click ‘Like’ …

However, The Running Awards are respected as the original and best, and continue to put on one hell of a show to celebrate everything to do with running in the UK each year. Attending events such as these is bread and butter for many bloggers based in the London area so I was glad to take the opportunity to partake in the fun for once, and it was undoubtedly the highlight of my weekend in London.

Thank you so much to Strava for inviting me, and for the lovely goodies to take away.

the running awards

Older posts

© 2016 Red Wine Runner

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑