Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

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The week everything changed


This week was a turning point for many people in my country. You would have to have been living under a rock in recent weeks to ignore the coverage and impact of the Scottish Referendum, and the impact of the decisions made on Thursday will roll forward like waves into the future. However, that is not what this post is about. There are people out there who can write more succinctly and with greater insight on that subject than I, and whilst I have strong opinions on recent events I will limit my sharing of them to sitting around a table in a pub with my friends, or perhaps shouting at the television and the newspapers.

You see, two days before Scotland’s day of reckoning, there was a day in my personal life with equal or perhaps even greater significance for me. This was the day where I left my full time job for the last time and entered the next stage of my life.


Three months ago, after a lot of thought and consideration, I put in my notice after deciding that the high-stress, long commute, long hours, desk pilot lifestyle was no longer serving my best interests. Things hadn’t been 100% right for me in my job for a little while and whilst I loved many aspects of working where I did and the people that I worked with, I couldn’t see a future there for me. Having been inspired by several friends doing something similar, I began to see that it wasn’t too late for me to quit the rat race and find a life that I was in control of and made me happy. Of course it wasn’t an easy decision to make and the next few months are by no means going to be easy either, but I’m very excited to move on and start building a different future.

MaldivesSo, what exactly am I going to be doing with myself? Well, next Wednesday I will be enrolling on a full-time taught Master’s degree at Robert Gordon University and in 12 months time I should be graduating with an MSc in Digital Marketing. This is a slight deviation from my career so far, but I see it more as a development than anything else. For those of you that don’t know, my undergraduate degree is in Music (BMus (Hons) Newcastle University, ’06) and I have spent the majority of my career so far in Concerts and Event Management/Arts Marketing, most recently in Higher Education. In the last 18 months or so, my job has veered away from that aspect and into an Administrative direction that wasn’t really part of The Plan, so this is my way of re-qualifying myself and upgrading my skills with a view to re-entering the Arts Marketing world in the future.

The course itself is taught over two days a week, with three days left free for study and research. This tremendous amount of time flexibility that I’ve been granted is going to allow me to train more effectively than ever before, with my eventual goal being the 2015 West Highland Way Race. I look forward to being able to actually have the time to take strength/conditioning classes and no longer having to head out for a couple of hours of running after a long day at work.

Postgraduate study is no joke, but I am looking forward to a less stressful existence and being able to be a better person to be around. I didn’t used to be a particularly sickly person but I’ve never been more ill more frequently in the last couple of years than in my whole life, and I credit that entirely to burning the candle at both ends and in the middle, and generally not being able to look after myself as well as I’d like. Many friends are always quick to say how ‘healthy’ running and training must make me, but health does not just translate as the ability to run 50 miles. Just because I can do that does not mean I’m a healthy person and anyone who knows me very well will know that there is a lot I can improve upon right now to be granted the title of ‘Healthy’.

vs-lochmuickSo for now in terms of training for the next couple of months, I’ll be building a strong body with which to tackle the West Highland Way and its associated training next year. As keen as I am, there is no point in bashing out the big miles now as I’ll be worn down and bored by March. I have some weight to lose, some muscle to rebuild and some strength to gain first, and I hope that this will lead to PBs at the Peterhead 10k and the Fraserburgh Half marathon in November.

I also look forward to having the time to share more about my training on this blog and moving away from the constant stream of Race Reports that it has been lately. When I started RedWineRunner several years ago I documented my weekly training as I built up to races and this is a format I’d like to return to. Hopefully with more frequent posting will come more reader engagement and the opportunity to grow this blog into something a bit more substantial, but I promise to keep it relevant and not sell out to sponsors and reviews.

Photo: Stuart Macfarlane

Photo: Stuart Macfarlane

So here’s to the next big step. It’s hard to believe that I started Red Wine Runner nearly four years ago to document my tentative embarkation upon the great sport of ‘running’. A lot has gone under the metaphorical bridge since those early posts and I don’t doubt that there’s still a lot to come! I’m excited for the future and for further change and I hope you all stick with me for it.

Thanks for reading,


RACE REPORT: The Running Shop Beach 10k 2013

runningshop10k3The Running Shop Beach 10k 2013

Gun time: 50:44 – NEW PB!
Place: 139th/229
Category: 12th/43 Senior Females
Gender: 26th/82

The Running Shop 10k is a funny race. A no-fuss, no-frills evening race organised by a local Running Shop, funnily enough named “The Running Shop”, and held every year mid-week in the middle of June on that well-worn pathway to the North East runners’ Hell – the Beach Promenade.

For the princely sum of £7, you get a flat and fast timed 10k race with water and a chocolate bar at the end. It’s not chip timed, but the amount of entrants means that if you care about your time you can get very close to the start line if you wish.

This year the race was part of our Club Championship, which was my main reason for entering. I hadn’t done a 10k in over a year; I don’t particularly like the distance so if I was going to pick a race to do a 10k it would probably be one with plenty of course support, and a nice t-shirt and medal at the end. I can be fickle like that at times, but that’s not what this race was about. Runners come here to race their legs off away from the big crowds of the other expensive and commercial local 10k, Baker Hughes, and hammer it out as fast as they can on the flat and unchallenging route. It is essentially a time trial, with many of the local running clubs including it in their championships and some of the fastest local runners coming to give it their best.

My speedwork lately has been non-existent; I haven’t been to a club session since I started my new job (I keep getting home too late) and I’ve been concentrating on getting my running fitness back before doing anything more complicated with my pace. Essentially despite running lots of miles lately, I was completely untrained for this race and I knew it was going to hurt. To smash my PB I needed to hold an average pace of 8:18, which seemed a little ambitious to me, but I figured I could give it a good try.

After giving Kate a lift down from work we had a brisk 1.5 mile warm up to try and loosen our legs up. After both completing the Ythan Challenge on Sunday we weren’t very sure how they’d be feeling; mine felt a little unresponsive at first but soon sped up. I had a quick trip to the bathroom and found a lamp post to tie my jumper on to before hanging around for the last 10 minutes with the girls from the club. No-one was all that excited to take part after having trained for ultramarathons all year so far – the general consensus was “Too short, too fast!”

The gun went off and suddenly I’m moving forward, swept away in a fluid moving cell of legs and arms. I had decided 8 minute miles was a good pace to aim for and that I’d try to hold it as long as I could. That plan lasted about 30 seconds before I realised that the wind was behind me and that I should take advantage of this whilst I could as I’d lose time on the return journey running straight in to the wind.

By the time the first mile was over I was already not enjoying myself so I turned on my mp3 player for some distraction. Mile 2 and 3 were straight in to the wind and finished with a surprise fastest ever 5k time for me – 24:13. Despite my general discomfort this pleased me as it meant I was doing well – keep this up and I was well on course to beat my PB.

The course is a loop on the Promenade so the lead pack passed me on the upper level, followed by a stream of familiar faces. It was really nice to exchange thumbs up with faster runners from the club which gave me a much needed mental boost. I was flailing mentally and straying in to “Why do I bother” territory, so seeing people being better than me gave me the kick up the backside to remember that getting faster doesn’t just happen and that I need to work to earn it.

Miles 4 and 5 took us back past the start and onto the second lap. The wind was behind me so I tried to let it push me on but I couldn’t get my legs to move fast enough. They were fatigued and my lack of muscle strength betrayed me – this is what I need to gain for an increase in speed. More hill reps and intervals are in my future to build explosive power in my muscles.

Mile 6 was at the turn around and had us run toward the finish straight in to the wind. I was getting slower and slower and felt like a football slowly deflating. Legs, move faster! No, arms – you move faster too! Stop slouching! Lift your knees! I mentally barked instructions at myself but I still felt like I was running like the flying spaghetti monster with limbs all over the place. The stomach started tightening and my ITBs started grumbling – I want to sit down and retch like a cat throwing up a hairball please – says the body. No! Run faster! – says the mind. Can’t – say the legs. I hate 10ks, says Redwinerunner.

‘Til now I had only given my watch one or two glances to check my pace, and had been so disgusted by the falling numbers that I had given up monitoring the data. With about 400m to go I looked at the overall time and was surprised to see 48:XX – suddenly all my mental gurning disappeared and the possibility of a PB kicked me back into race mode. All of a suddent, I DIDN’T have nothing left and I wasn’t totally spent and was able to find something for a finishing sprint. Later this really annoyed me; I should have kept my eyes on the prize and I could have run better – I clearly wasn’t trying hard enough.

runningshop10k4Ronnie caught me deep in the hurt locker – I had no idea he was even there

I crossed the line in 50:44 by my watch, which is a 49 second PB. I’m pleased but I feel underwhelmed – I allowed myself to under perform in the second half which meant a big positive split. It also revealed where my weaknesses are at the moment (anerobic fitness, leg strength) so I suppose I have benefited from this race in that respect. I have no further plans to race another 10k until I have to, but now I’m slightly tempted to do the Forfar 10k in August just to see how much I can improve with some proper training. By then I’ll be in peak marathon training and should be in excellent shape so perhaps I could FINALLY dip under 50 minutes? My 10k time is the area that has improved the least in my 3 years of running – the very first race I ran I finished in 54:47 so I’ve only managed to knock 4 minutes off in 3 years. That is in comparison to 7 minutes off my 5k, 19 minutes off my Half Marathon and a stonking 1hr 7minutes off my marathon time. There is little room for error in a 10k though; every second counts, so I guess I’m glad to still be chipping away at it. I can do better though.



7:30 / 8:01 / 8:13 / 8:14 / 8:25 / 8:40 // 1:39

Afterwards, I took myself home via the Carron for some chips and curry sauce. Dirty, but well deserved. This weekend brings a whole new challenge – sweeping the West Highland Way race. As part of a team of 6 from Stonehaven Running Club I will be taking shifts in bringing up the rear of the race and making sure all stragglers and sufferers are well looked after.  I know I’ll be going over Conic Hill in first light on Saturday morning and over the Devil’s Staircase as day breaks on Sunday, so if the weather holds clear I could be in for some fantastic sights. The forecast is diabolical of course, but let’s not dwell on that. It’s going to be another epic adventure – I should clock up around 35 miles over the 35 hours and we will be out on the course the longest of all. Another step forward in my own journey to completing the West Highland Way race and what an exciting one to take!

See you in Milngavie!

D33 Ultra – 3 days to go!

The days and weeks keep slipping by and all of a sudden it would appear to be March 2013. Not even the start of March – it’s now the 13th of March which means the 2013 D33 Ultramarathon is only 3 days away!


This time last year I was in full race-preparation mode and absolutely raring to go. This year it’s been a little bit different obviously as it’s not my first ultra, but also training does not stop at this race for me this year. I’m taking a far more relaxed approach which has allowed me to enjoy race week so far and just look forward to racing. I have a few ideas about what I’m going to aim to achieve on race day, what I’m going to eat and what I might be wearing, but in comparison to last year I’m so laid back I’m practically horizontal.

The five day weather forecast came online yesterday and I’ve been obsessively refreshing BBC weather to track any changes. I’m not normally this fussed about weather, but right now it has been snowing heavily for the last 24 hours and that does not bode well for a good race. It seems to be melting quickly though, and the forecast actually looks reasonable for Saturday, if a little on the chilly side.

New Picture (26)

I’ve been lucky enough to never yet raced in truly awful weather. I know this will change at some point, but I’d quite like it not to be this weekend. Last year’s weather was perfect and I even got a head start on my dodgy running tan with some excellent stripes from my running sleeves – let’s keep everything crossed for a repeat of that.

Stonehaven Running Club is doing a couple of mini-buses to transport runners up from the South, as parking is limited and we have over 20 runners taking part. This will be a great and fun way to start the day, but I really hope I don’t get carsick! I’m really looking forward to wearing my club vest again and running my first club championship race – there are 10 ladies running so even if I’m last there are a reasonable amount of championship points to be had.

I know this is the first time I’ve mentioned Club Championship races here, so here’s a quick note from the SRC website on what this means: Nine races have been chosen as the basis for the club championship. An individual can enter all 9 races but only their best 5 scores are added up and the highest scoring male and female will win the cup at the end of the year. Points are scored as follows: the SRC runners are ranked on their finishing places within the overall field, with the ‘winner’ scoring an extra point. So 1st finisher scores 21, 2nd finisher 19 and so on down to the 20th finisher scoring 1 point.)


I’m pleased to report that my training has been going very well; I’m steadily churning out mileage weeks in the mid-40s and am suffering no ill-effects. I took a look at what I’ve done this year so far compared with last year, and I was quite encouraged. At times in the last fortnight or so, it’s felt like I haven’t been working as hard as last year…but it’s obviously because it’s getting easier, not that I’m doing less…

2013 weekly miles so far2013 weekly miles so far – you can see in week 6 where I crashed and burned a bit and skipped 30 miles of back-to-back that weekend…

2012 weekly miles from end of Jan2012 miles from the last week of January until D33 race week.

In comparison, 2013 is much heavier on the miles, far more consistent and includes at least two hours of cross training a week on top of the running. I am also about a stone lighter and much, much stronger. All good things.

In terms of my goals for Saturday…I’m still undecided. I will probably call it on the morning, or a few miles into the race. Last year my time was 5hr56m which is 10:47 pace, but I think I could easily shave 10 minutes or so off that without pushing too hard. I know if I decided I wanted to really crush this race I could probably get under 5hr30 but I think that effort might have training consequences which might set me back in my last weeks of preparation for the Highland Fling. I’ve got to keep my eyes on the prize! My Long Slow Runs in training have been at around 10 minute miles, so I reckon I will stick with that kind of pace and see where I am at half way. A steady 10 minute mile pace for the entire race would see me in at 5hr30 but I will be incorporating walking/fueling breaks as usual, although probably every 45 minutes rather than every 30 like last year. It is likely that I will also negative split as well, due to the slight downhill nature of the last section.

So let’s say my goals are as follows:

Bronze – finish strong and uninjured around the same time as 2012
Silver – 5hr 45 or less
Gold – 5hr 30 or less
Platinum – as above, but with a win at the rugby later on that night against France :)

Finishing my first ultra - D33 2012

Finishing my first ultra – D33 2012

I am so excited to do this race for the second time and to see my ultra friends again. The last miles of that race last year are still my favourite running memories ever, and I dearly hope I am luck enough to get a second day of happy times. Kynon is marshaling at the half way point so I will get a nice hug and a kiss to set me off on my way back home, and my Mum is planning on popping up on a couple of occasions too. Hopefully one of them will make it back to the finish in time for me but if not it’s no big deal as all my favourite running people will be out and about, either running or helping.

If this is your first ultra – best of luck to you and I hope you don’t have bad taperitus like I did! It is a wonderfully friendly race and if you don’t already know what the big deal about ultras is, by the end of Saturday you surely will. Just relax and think of it as a nice day out running with friends. Chat to everyone who passes you and be sure to try the flapjacks at half way! Stick around at the end and grab a beer and some cake, then get the train to Stonehaven for the after-party at the Station Hotel.

See you at the start, and remember; fear no distance!

RACE REPORT: Nuffield Health Jogscotland 5k Challenge

Nuffield Health JogScotland 5k Challenge
6th June 2012

Official time: 25 mins 21 secs
Finish position: 69th/201
Age Group position: 23rd/50

As far as races go, this was probably one of the least enjoyable experiences that I’ve had so far for a variety of reasons. The Nuffield Jogscotland 5k Challenge is a series of races which take place in the larger cities and towns across Scotland and are marketed towards the newer runner, corporate groups or people doing their very first race. There was a large group of us from Fetch heading along so Kynon and I decided to join in for the fun thinking it would be a pleasant way to spend a summer’s evening with friends.

Now obviously nothing could have been done about the weather, but unfortunately nearly everything else about the race was shoddily organised. After signing up online we received no further information about the event other than what was available on the website (the race started at 7pm in Hazlehead Park – a very large park in Aberdeen). The website stated that detailed instructions would be sent out by email before the event, however when it got to 4pm on the day and nothing had been heard, I decided to call JogScotland HQ.  I’ve done enough races to know that if I turned up an hour beforehand I’d have no problem finding the start and getting myself sorted out, but I was irked enough by the lack of communications both by email and on the JogScotland Facebook page that I decided to call them anyway to see what they had to say. I was put through three different people on the phone before I could get someone with an answer which was: Just turn up. When pressed about the lack of communication they responded that ‘Someone was supposed to do it, but then they were off and it kind of didn’t happen’. Really?! From a locally organised club race that might be an acceptable excuse, but JogScotland is a national running organisation with full time staff and if I’m paying to attend one of your events then I expect more.

There were many people calling the JogScotland HQ and local running shops looking for information which they were then posting on the JogScotland Facebook Wall to help clueless runners. The Facebook Page had been deluged with queries and complaints including some from people who had never raced before and were confused and nervous about the event. There was, and as yet still has not been, a response from JogScotland about the lack of pre-race information.

We arrived at 6pm to collect our packets and hoped there would not be long queues. The Scottish Summer remained true to form and less than a fortnight after complaining about running in 28C heat, I had my winter running gear back on again as we were faced with temperatures of 8C, a nasty wind, sideways rain and heavy fog when we left the car.

Packet pick-up was in some tents and there was also a burger van and a bag drop. Pre-race entertainment was provided which consisted of an aging pub singer in a silver flared catsuit and blonde 70s wig, singing along to a backing track in a portable trailer stage. I say ‘entertainment’ in the loosest possible sense; our enthusiastic chanteuse never got any closer to the notes she ought to have been singing than a minor 2nd below.

Undeterred, we went to find the start which was somewhere in here:

7pm came and went and there was not a single indication of when the race would actually start. Thankfully we had rounded up all of our friends and were able to have a laugh about it all whilst sheltering from the rain.

Finally, after a 20 minute delay we were herded towards the gantry; a man with a megaphone mumbled something unintelligible and suddenly we were running. It was a wild stampede across the field reminiscent of High School Cross Country; I decided that I wanted this over as fast as possible so I would just run all out and throw away any thoughts of smart pacing – especially as the race was obscuring my Garmin anyway!

Mile 1: 9:01 (all uphill)
Mile 2: 8:14
Mile 3: 7:47
(all downhill)
.10: 0:24

The route was mainly on trails and grass through Countesswells Woods which suited me just fine, however I suspect some fragile souls may well have been traumatised by having to skirt around vast archipelagos of horse poo floating in the giant puddles. It was really just a case of head down and go for me so I have little to report from the race itself other than the course looked like it was very nice and I want to explore up there one day when it’s not pouring with rain. Unfortunately due to bad course marking and a lack of marshalls, the lead pack got lost in the second mile and ended up passing the main contingent again at great speed when they found their way again. Thankfully I’m not fast enough to have those problems but was able to hang on to the feet and neon jackets of those in front of me, who at times were only just visible in the thick fog.

Upon crossing the finish line I was expecting a t-shirt, goody bag and medal as promised; however at the time it appeared that there would be nothing for us other than water and bananas. No-one wanted to hang around so we quickly dispersed; and thankfully noticed on our way back to the car that goody bags, t-shirts and medals were being dispersed at the same tent as registration which was away from the route back to the carparks. Again – there was no communication at the finish line to indicate this at all!

I don’t normally run in a full face of make-up but given that I’d come from work I had my usual eyeliner/mascara etc on; this obviously ended up streaked down my face in the pouring rain creating a marvellous look. We quickly made an exit and got home as fast as possible to warm up and dry off, feeling somewhat disillusioned with the whole experience, although glad to have had some fun with our friends.

So to summarise the improvements required; COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION! It is so important in all aspects of life and something which should be an enjoyable experience can quickly become confusing and frustrating for participants if they don’t know what’s going on. I do believe JogScotland may have had some factors working against them which caused the delays (slow confirmation of set-up location from Aberdeen City Council, a traffic accident by the park entrance which delayed the start) so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but there was no reason why this could not have been relayed to the runners. I know they’ve been organising these races for quite some time and my friends have always had good experiences so something doesn’t quite add up. I feel sorry for those who may have been doing this as their very first race however; it is really not an accurate reflection of organised racing in Scotland so I do hope they’re not put off!

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