Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Tag: half marathon training (page 1 of 3)

Peterhead 10k 2014 – RACE REPORT

Peterhead 10k

9th November 2014

Peterhead 10k medal

Time: 49m 01s – NEW PB!
Place: 86th / 185 Finishers
Gender: 18th / 82 Females
Category: 10th / 37 FSenior

 I’m very pleased to be finally writing a race report for a 10k where I can say I have cracked the 50 minute barrier which has seemed out of reach for me for so long. It’s silly; a sub 50 minute 10k isn’t even that fast, and it seems most people either achieve it in their first attempt without any specific effort at all or fairly swiftly afterwards. However I have really struggled to see any reasonable improvement at the 10k distance in the 4 years I’ve been running, and it remains my least improved upon personal best.

I completed my first 10k (Baker Hughes 2010) in 54:07 and went on to complete subsequent 10ks in 2011 in 56:17 (Garioch), 57:07 (Balmoral), and 52:36 (Baker Hughes). In 2012 I completed Baker Hughes again in 51:33, and in 2013 I completed the Running Shop 10k in 50:44 and Loch Kinord in 56:32. I don’t think my lack of improvement has been down to lack of ability, just mainly laziness and the constant pursuit of the easiest way to do the most exciting things. Why bother with training to burst yourself for ~49 minutes when you can train yourself to run for 72 miles? I look for a high ROI on my training and distances shorter than marathons have been overlooked for goal targeting since I went ultra 2.5 years ago.

Recently after a short period of less long-distance training, increased resistance training and a little bit of weight-loss, I found myself in the condition to have a reasonable attempt at running a bit faster over shorter distances. As previously explained I’ve been chasing a silver club standard, one of the requirements of which is three 60% WAVA finishes in 2014, and for me that meant a 49:49 or better at the Peterhead 10k was my best bet to get the third 60% before the year ended.

With this extra bit of pressure upon me (the alternative was sub 1hr 50m at the Fraserburgh Half Marathon, or a Proms 3k sprint – blerch) I did some club speed sessions and hill work by myself and as usual hoped I could ride off the pain endurance the ultra season would give me. If I can complete 52 miles of a 72 mile race with intense ITB pain, surely I can ride out 49 minutes whilst feeling like I’m going to die – put in context, it really seemed achievable this time.

I decided to target 8 minute miles as my initial pace ( for a finish time of 49:59), and take advantage of the downhill finish that Vikki had described to me in order to cut off more time with a fast last mile. In an attempt to take it as seriously as possible, I cut myself off the booze at the pub after Scotland’s excellent win against Argentina in the rugby the night before despite wanting to neck another few beers in celebration, and went home and ate a modest meal with lots of water to rehydrate. The luxuriously late start of 1pm allowed for plenty of rest, and Kynon drove me up so to avoid another race blighted by my tendency for car-sickness. The weather was perfectly chilled, sunny and calm, and for once absolutely everything seemed to be in my favour.

Carolann main - Metro Running CLub

Picture – Carolann Main – Metro Aberdeen Running Club

The first mile came easily in 7:43, which gave me a little padding for later miles. A steady incline rose, rose and fell, then rose, rose, and fell – we seemed to be going up, up, up which wasn’t part of the plan! Vikki had said this was flat, hadn’t she? Or was it “flat, kind of”? If there was a downhill finish then that probably meant we had to go up a hill to get there. Curses. Did not think that one through. Mile 2: 8:07.

Mile 3 and we’re still going up hill and I’m finding it harder to keep the pace as close to 8 as possible without working far too hard. A muscle in my stomach is twitching and threatening to cramp if I push too hard, so I keep a lid on it and lock into the pace of the man in front, telling myself I will be able to make up time on the mythical downhill shortly. When my watch beeps to tell me mile 3 was completed in 8:21 my heart sinks as my ‘padding’ is all gone and now I have to run faster than ever to hit the required time, and the road is still going up.

 peterhead 10k course profile

Between three and four miles my inner monologue can’t decide whether to scream positive encouragement to my legs or curse myself for daring to set out to achieve this audacious goal in the first place. Who cares about the silver standard  anyway? Not longer after 5k however I realised that it was over half way done; this shouldn’t have been such a revelation, but between that and the glimpse of Peterhead in the distance I remembered how temporary this uncomfort was and that if I could just get myself through another 2.5 miles I could forget about 10ks for as long as I wanted. Mile 4: 8:20

As illustrated above, the last two miles are gloriously downhill. I started to feel great! I had my watch set to show the estimated finish time for each mile and every time I glanced it said 7:XX, so the belief came back and I was ready to leave it all out on the course to get that sub-50. Mile 5: 7:39.

The temptation was strong to run as hard as I could in the last mile but the twitchy stomach muscle was still giving warning twangs. Running quickly downhill when I’m tired is almost guaranteed to give me a stitch, so I had to be careful with my efforts as a cramping muscle now would ruin everything. Mile 6: 7:25.

Picture - Carolann Main, Metro Running Club

Picture – Carolann Main, Metro Running Club

On the approach to the last 0.2 I turned my watch over to see the overall time of 47:39 and knew I had it in the bag. I was able to hammer it down the last 400 meters in the hope of achieving a time that started with 48:XX – previously unfathomable! Kynon’s trademark stadium roar encouraged me over the finish line, and I concluded my run as is becoming tradition in faster events, by taking a few more steps and bending over and retching into the hedgerow.

49:00 was the time on my watch, and 49:01  my official time, giving me a WAVA comfortably into the 60s of 61.90% and an average pace of 7:53. Not quite the fastest race I’ve ever run (my 5k PB average pace is 7:49) but I’m very pleased with the outcome. The race also gave an excellent medal, had an utterly superb post-race spread and to add to the occasion I was even awarded a spot prize!

Running socks, SIS gels, running hat

 Not bad for a £10 entry fee, all things considered.

Next up is the Fraserburgh Half Marathon on Sunday. Will I go out for another PB? Why not, it can’t hurt. Unfortunately the course has changed a bit and the long downhill back into town to the finish now has an extra mile loop of the town before you cross the line, but it still retains its flat profile. If I can hang on to 8:30 pace for as long as possible then I should be able to knock a couple of minutes off my PB of 1:55:18 set in July 2013. This is my first road half marathon since I set my PB last year so it will be good to see some improvement on tarmac.


‘Til next time…


Dundee Half Marathon 2013 – RACE REPORT

20130721_144226Dundee Half Marathon 
21st July 2013
Gun Time: 1hr 55m 18s – NEW PB!
351st Place (out of 755 finishers)

Back in 2011, the Dundee Half Marathon was my second half marathon which I ran just two weeks after my first. I remember having quite a tough race and it was probably my least favourite race of that year. Two years later and I was back for a second go, but this time it would be my 13th half marathon.

The week before the event had been extremely warm across the UK; some called it a heatwave, but what I believe we’ve been experiencing could be filed under what some have been known to refer to as ‘summer’. You’ve heard all this before – I hate running in heat and I don’t perform well in sunshine – so naturally I was desperate for a cool day. As we got towards the end of the week the temperatures crept down and on Saturday morning it was around 15C and cloudy when we left Stonehaven at 7:3oam which was quite reasonable, although it was forecast to warm up.

Kynon and I picked up Kate and we were at the start by around 8:30 after a stop at Tesco to use the toilets. Memories of a lack of portaloos from 2011 haunted me so we took preventative action and stopped at the supermarket. The start was in Camperdown Park where there was plenty of parking even though it was very busy. Again, like two years ago we were accosted by a woman selling sweets for charity the absolute minute we got out of the car. I don’t know where she came from but she swooped from nowhere and pounced upon us. I really don’t like this manner of collecting money – it’s incredibly forceful and puts you in a terribly awkward position when you’re trying to get your head on straight and your kit together to start a race. .

We headed up to collect our numbers to find a scene of mild chaos and nobody seemed to know what was going on. There was one big line, but we were being shouted at by a man with a megaphone to divide in to four (or five?!) lines by our race number. In itself this is not an unreasonable request, but given that within the five (yes, five) emails of instruction received in the weeks leading up to the race we were told repeatedly that race numbers would constantly change as the start list was updated in the run-up to the race, as the start list was indexed automatically by Surname…

So; thankfully someone had a phone where we could look up our number to collect our bibs. When we reached the front of our respective queues we discovered that staff were finding bibs by surname because numerically it just wasn’t working as no-one knew their number. Time was running out and I was feeling stressed and frustrated. I wanted to go to the toilet one more time but there was a massive queue for the 8 portaloos – 3 for the ladies and 5 for the gentlemen. Of course the ladies queue was twice the length of the gents and moving twice as slow. I joined the gents without a care and made it out of the cubical as the race briefing was being delivered. I shot across the park bumping into Rachel, who had just gone in a bush rather than queue, and we both expressed exasperation at having 8 portaloos for close to 800 runners.

There were corrals being arranged at the start but no advance signs had been posted so a lot of people had no idea where to go. I had guessed correctly that the back of the first quarter would be right for me looking to run around 1hr 50, but for many new runners who had no experience of corralled race starts there was more chaos as the Race Director yelled at us with a mega phone telling people where to go according to their projected finish times. Why there weren’t signs posting these i don’t know – this a total no-brainer and very simple to arrange. As a result the race was a little late in starting and rather than an excited atmosphere upon commencement, there was an air of confusion and bemusement.

The first two and a bit miles are mainly up hill on narrow woodland trails. It’s a lovely place to run but the start was spoiled by over-crowding and the constant need to bob and weave around slower runners or watch out for faster runners flying by. To a certain extent this was good to keep my pace restrained but it was frustrating to not be able to execute a start consistent with the pace I needed to run at to finish in my goal time. Of course time can always be made up later, but i’d rather not be thinking about that so close to the start.

Photo: John Mill

Photo: John Mill

There was a photographer at about 2 miles. I didn’t spot him at first, but then it seems I was quickly able to put on my ‘photogenic runner guy‘ face when I got closer…

Photo: John Mill

Photo: John Mill

Miles 3 and 4 are very downhill and entirely on road in a residential area. This should have been a comfortable ride down but I developed an agonising stitch in my right side from my rib to my hip which made the whole experience most uncomfortable. This has been happening more and more these days and I’m not sure why – does anyone have any ideas?

Splits mile 1 – 4: 9:05 – 8:48 – 8:07 – 8:12

Kynon, Kate and I had started together but I ended up taking a short early lead before Kynon shot off at about two miles. I was a bit concerned that he might have gone off too fast, but I wasn’t going to kill myself chasing him like the last time we raced a half together. I was running by myself until a man introduced himself to me as Mock Jogger and we chatted for a bit. He said he wanted to thank me for inspiring him to start racing after reading my race report of the 2012 Rock n Roll Edinburgh Half; I was so flattered and chuffed to bits! It took my mind off the pain in my side for a bit but it still persisted and wouldn’t go away.

Not long after, Kate passed me and asked how I was doing; I don’t think I was very positive, and she didn’t sound too good either as her feet were hurting. It was obvious that neither of us had much chat and she edged away. She remained about 200m ahead of me for the rest of the race and our pacing was clearly identical as I just could not catch up!

The sun was well and truly out by 5 miles and it was beginning to get properly hot, but thankfully there was a breeze which kept it from being too oppressive. The course continues on through a mixture of cycle path, parks and road; the constant variation kept the mind busy and the legs awake which made the miles fly by.

Photo: John Mill

Photo: John Mill

I obviously didn’t notice the photographer at 7 miles…

Photo: John Mill

Photo: John Mill

Just beautiful! It’s been a while since I’ve had a real stinker of a race picture but from the looks of the rest of the photographs taken here, everyone else was suffering too.

Splits mile 5 – 8: 8:47 – 8:49 – 8:45 – 8:52

Miles 8, 9 and 10 are tough ones as the race travels alongside the A92 dual carriageway, which is uninspiring territory to say the least. They are also uphill so application of a certain amount of heads-down-get-on-with-it is required. There’s the same funny little 400m out-and-back down one side of a street and up the other which allowed me to spot Kynon as he came up the other side ahead of me. I wobbled my hands in a thumbs up/thumbs down position to try and enquire if he was feeling ok, and his response was a shrug/nod/wobbly thumbs up which I interpreted as ‘Doing ok, considering’ which I was pleased to see.

The route crosses the road on a couple of occasions and the police were manning the crossings which were causing some congestion. Many car drivers were not pleased at being held up though and some were trying to sneak through dangerously much like I saw in 2011. I don’t know why they thought they could get away with this in the sight of a police officer – I’ve never seen it happen in any other race but in Dundee!

Splits mile 9 – 11: 9:20 – 9:00 – 9:19

I knew that at the top of the hill when we reached 11 miles it was literally mainly down hill from here. I was able to relax a bit and let gravity carry me at race pace as we made our way down to the riverside, which I remember seeming like it would go on forever. Just before we made the final turn to the river-front some wonderful person had turned on their garden sprinkler and hoisted it so it fell across the route which felt amazing to run through!

When we made the final turn the wind dropped and the temperature rose immediately, with the dry heat hitting you right in the face. I searched the horizon to try and spot the finish but it remained just slightly out of sight. I heard my watch bleep 12 miles and saw that it read 1hr 46:XX and I excitedly realised that I just needed to knock out a sub-10 mile and a new PB would be mine – perhaps I could even duck under 1:55! With the flat, smooth surface and the enticement of crossing the line I was able to speed up and start overtaking people, but it wasn’t easy since some people were clearly on a death-shuffle to the finish (or running at a slower pace due to doing the full marathon) so I had to be careful not to be an inconsiderate runner when overtaking.

When the finish line was in sight I allowed myself to push as hard as I could for the finish but I still couldn’t catch Kate, and I slipped across the line at 1:55 exactly by my watch and 18 seconds behind Kate.

Splits mile 12 – 13.1: 8:48 – 8:17 – :0.51


I was so happy to stop moving! It’s the best feeling in the world crossing a finish line – nothing to do with pride or glory anymore, just the ability to crash down on to the ground and groan in a mix of delight and agony as the urge to vomit retreats.

Picture by Rachel

Picture by Rachel, gurning by 13.1 miles

Kate and Kynon were straight ahead of the finish in a sweaty pile, so I staggered ahead a few more steps before flumping down next to them on the hot, scorched grass. I necked the bottle of water included in the goody bag in one and sucked down the gel they had included. Kynon had finished in 1:53:39 and was suffering badly in the heat, but was feeling very happy with his 8 minute PB. The rest of our friends trickled in soon after – Rachel, Ronnie, Susan and others and we all compared notes on the race. In general, the route and the running was most enjoyable and the right kind of challenging, but all of us came away with the feeling that everything to do with the organisation of the event was chaotic and held together by a shoestring. Kate’s husband and children were not allowed in to the finish area (which as you can see from the photo above even after the peak finish time, was a huge roomy field) and there was no additional water available at the finish other than the 500ml bottle in the goody bag. Since Kynon was feeling really ropey I went begging to the finish-line volunteers and a lady gave me a spare goody bag which was extremely kind of her, but given the temperatures of the fortnight before there was plenty of time to make extra hydration arrangements at the finish in addition to goody bags. I think the MacMillan Charity stall were selling refreshments, but since nobody had any money on them we couldn’t purchase anything.

We collected our drop bag which had a bottle of lucozade in it and decided to catch one of the transfer buses back to the start. This was one aspect of the day which really did work like clockwork and we were returned to Camperdown Park and our car swiftly.


I really liked the medal – it was very heavy and definitely the shiniest one I’ve earned yet.


We were home within an hour, but sadly left the sun behind us in Dundee which made the post-run natural ice bath a little more challenging than we would have liked.


Now, I am loathe to do this but I have to say that whilst the race itself was enjoyable, very well marshalled and supported, this was one of the worst events in terms of organisation I have ever taken part in. I don’t want to end my report on a negative note, but I feel I have to address a couple of the points mentioned above constructively and offer my thoughts on what I would do differently. There is a facebook group for the company that runs this and other events and it has been blowing up with people reporting many of the same complaints who are getting shot back down for supposedly moaning, being unsupportive and impossible to please; however as paying consumers of the services of this company we have a right to expect certain things which are fairly standard in races of this size.

1) Race Entry –
The website for this race is extremely poor and conveys next to no information about the event other than the bare essentials, once you’ve found the race that is. This event is huge and ought to be the flagship running event of Dundee – but it’s not even mentioned on the organiser’s home page –

There was no route map available until last week and even then it was a hand-marked copy of a paper map of Dundee city, scanned and uploaded as three .pdfs with the page orientation wrong so you can only view it sideways. Simple solution – use to plot and save the route and link to it on your website.

Entry was listed as being £13.10 for the first 100 entries, then £15 up until six weeks before the event, and £18 thereafter. Kynon entered 7 weeks before the event and was charged the full amount – when he emailed to query this it was dismissed as him misunderstanding the pricing structure and that he should consider a half marathon for £18 excellent value. That it may be, but that was not the point and the pricing structure was completely misadvertised and the organiser admitted that the system was set to charge the higher amount after 750 entries, not after a certain date. When pursuing this further and requesting a refund due to the misadvertisement he was told he was ‘splitting hairs’ and was offered a refund of £1.50 which was both inappropriate and missing the point entirely. Further debate ensued, wasting both of their time, until eventually the full amount was refunded but the organiser still refused to admit fault. None of this was necessary – the race entry system should have been set up for what was advertised.

2) Pre-race communication –
There was no need for 5 emails to be sent out over the course of a month, each saying slightly varying versions of the same thing. One, clear email the week before would suffice. There needs to be an up-to-date, event specific website for this race as well – more information was to be found on Facebook than anywhere else and despite Social Media’s world domination, this is not acceptable and should not be the only way of communicating with your customers, many of whom will not use facebook.

3) Number pick up –
The only time I’ve ever collected a race bib by number was at the Paris Marathon when numbers were issued months in advance. There was no need to complicate things by publicising the continuously changing name/number index in advance and expecting people to keep track of their changing number. Just do it by name on the morning, or charge an extra quid and post them out by snail mail.

4) Toilets –
I’ve never been at a race where there have been too many toilets. 8 portaloos between 800 people seems a daft number to pick – perhaps this is statistically what might be recommended for a normal event with that amount of people, but 800 nervous, hydrated people all wanting to go to the toilet within a very small time frame requires more facilities, as nobody wants to relieve themselves in a public country park, but the bushes all around the manor house in Camperdown are now full of human waste in the middle of summer.

5) Corralling –
This needs to be sign posted. Either signs or marshalls marking each projected time split. With bigger races like this you ought to expect a lot of first time runners who won’t have a clue about start etiquette or what to do, and that’s fine; but you need to accommodate the clueless because they aren’t mind readers.

6) Start congestion –
Accurate corralling is particularly important on a course with such a narrow start as this. There were many complaints about the congestion and I believe Rachel even ended up slowing to a walk at one point in the first mile. Dundee locals have made the suggestion of doing a loop of the park on wider paths first and getting rid of the little 400m out and back at mile 9 which seems a valid suggestion. Either that or operate a wave start system and release the (enforced!) corrals every 30 seconds. This of course, requires the race to be fully chip timed.

7) Chip timing –
The race is advertised as chip timed – it is not. Runners wore a chip which accurately recorded their finishing time as they cross the finish line (thus eliminating human error) but the time issued is a gun time, not a chip time, and should not be claimed as such. What’s worse is that in an email after the event addressing complaints about this, the organiser dismisses these complaints and tells us that there is no difference between gun times and chip times:
“All runners received the same GUN time (as explained in the emails leading up to the event) so it was in fact an accurately chipped timed event, as this would be the same set of results even if you were timed from a start mat – my decision to not have matts at the start was simply a cost exercise (not a reduction in quality of results) – if the combined event goes ahead again next year and we have adequate numbers for the DRAM Marathon then the entire event will be chip timed, but the resulting times would still be the same – you would have just seen how long it takes to run across the start matt – the first person across the line is the winner, no matter where anyone else started.”

This explanation is total nonsense. We paid for a chip timed race and should have received an accurate start line to finish line result – what we got was a gun time and anyone who has ever run a race before will know this, making this dismissive response insulting and inaccurate.

8) Finish –
There was no need to exclude family and friends from the finish area; the race wasn’t big enough for this and it wasn’t as if the runners were being offered anything that the spectators weren’t entitled to such as food and drink. There should have been stacks of water at the finish – they knew it was going to be hot and to run out (or just not provide?) was inexcusable.

There were other issues in the race which didn’t affect me so I don’t have the right to complain about, but there were problems with the course marking and marshalling of the later stages of the marathon; the top finishers male and female got lost and ran 28 miles. Many finishing times, names and number seem to have been jumbled up (despite the chip finish) and the top finishers in the categories seem to have had various issues regarding getting their place recorded correctly.

So, what is going on with this race? Despite being organised by an event company, I wonder whether Eventfull is actually just one man? How many people are behind this? The organiser has sent out all communication under his own name and has assumed personal responsibility for everything to do with the race so I wonder if it is just one person handling everything? If so I’m not surprised that things have got a bit out of control and I do hope that reports of him ending up in hospital with stress for the second year running are untrue. After his email last night I feel a bit like I’m kicking a puppy by writing out all of these criticisms but so many of the errors made were unnecessary and should be easily fixed for future events.

It shouldn’t have to be this hard – Dundee City Council should be giving this event more support and publicity as it has the potential to be fantastic and a real draw for the city. They are now in the running for UK City of Culture 2017 so hopefully these events will be given more support, and if Eventfull Management is just one man, then he’ll get more support in order to execute a flagship event the city can be proud of.

RedWineRunner and the big SUB 4


In three years of running, I’ve ran three marathons; Loch Ness 2011, Moray 2012 and Paris 2013. I’ve consistently taken time off my personal best each time I’ve crossed the finishing line from my first, injured time of 5hrs 12m 02s at Loch Ness…


A victorious 4hr 19m 30s at Moray…

Moray Marathon 2012

And a surprise 4hr 05m 18s in Paris…


I’ve had a kind of love/hate relationship with the marathon. After being burned by the distance at my first attempt, despite going on to complete a successful 33 mile ultra marathon a few months later, when it came to my second attempt at 26.2 I arrived on the starting line full of nerves. When it came to Paris, I was just in it for the social and took the race quite literally in my stride as part of my preparation for the Highland Fling ultra. I enjoyed myself hugely and without putting any pressure on myself at all I came tantalisingly close to cracking 4 hours.

Therefore it ought to come as no surprise at all that for my 4th marathon I’m going all out for a sub 4 time. Once more I will be returning to the quiet back roads of Moray to take on their flat, fast and cheap marathon and will be tacking marathon number four on the 1st of September 2013.

I’ll be following the guidance of Mr Hal Higdon and his Intermediate 2 marathon plan. This programme worked extremely well for me last year and fits into my life nicely. Running five days a week and training on a sixth is now a habit which is hard to break, and despite enjoying a very easy month in May I’m itching to hand my life over to a training schedule once more.

Frustratingly, in theory I started my three month training regime on the 3rd of June, but was unable to execute a full first week of training due to a five day work trip to Ireland. I did enjoy two lovely, sunny runs along the banks of the Foyle, however.

20130608_132842 20130608_134145 20130609_121915

I think my biggest challenge over the next few months is going to be my work/life balance. Fitting my training around some big changes at work (which have meant longer hours and no more lunchtime runs for now) and the challenges of wedding planning has already proved to be a pain, but there’s nothing to be done about that other than somehow find the time to do it. If that means running at 4:30am or 8:30pm, then so be it – at least I’m training in the summer!

Fitting blogging in and around all of the above will also be tricky – this post has sat in my drafts for nearly 10 days and I’m only now getting around to finishing it. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep things ticking over around here but if it gets a little quiet then that’s unfortunately why.

I’ll finish up with a run-down of which races I’ll be at in the next few months:

– 16th June – The Ythan Challenge
My third attempt at the extremely popular adventure race. Previous Race reports: 2011 and 2012

– 18th June – The Running Shop  Aberdeen Beach 10k
My first 10k in over a year – can I crack out a new PB? I need to beat 51m 33s on a flat course if that’s the case.

– 21 – 23rd June – The West Highland Way Race
I’ll be joining the WHW Race family for the third year in a row, but this year I will be on the sweep team with 5 great runners from Stonehaven Running Club. Another new challenge that I’m really looking forward to! Previous reports: 2011 and 2012.

– 30th June – Peterhead Half Marathon
A tune-up race for the Moray Marathon – I’ll be running at marathon goal pace for this (sub – 9 minute miles)

– 21st July – Dundee Half Marathon
Another tune-up race – primarily for Kynon and his preperation for the Kielder Marathon. I will either pace him, or run at my own goal pace.

– 28th July – Ballater 10 Mile Race
I have high hopes for a big PB here – My current best time was set at my only 10 mile race so far at the same event 2 years ago – 1hr 38m

Here’s to another great summer of running and racing!

Fraserburgh Half Marathon 2012 – RACE REPORT

Fraserburgh Half Marathon 2012

18th November 2012
Gun time: 1hr 56m 9s
Position: 162/242 finishers
Gender: 37/82 Ladies
Category: 16/34 Senior Ladies

Another end of season, and another great day out at the Fraserburgh Half Marathon, affectionately known around these parts as the Broch Half. Last year I finished up my racing year there with a brand new half marathon PB of 2:07.17, slicing 8 minutes off my first attempt at the distance 5 months previously at Stonehaven. This year I’ve somehow managed to carve a further 11 minutes off and my PB now rests firmly under 2 hours – a 19 minute improvement since my first half. It’s not just the time that is coming down though – last year at the Broch I placed 37th out of 67 in my gender and only 22nd out of 28 in my age category. There was a slight increase in numbers taking part this year but I am pleased to finally be worming my way out of the back of the pack to the middle in these smaller races.

The day started off with a complete catastrophe. A real, race-ending catastrophe. Kynon and I spent the night before the race in my now empty flat in Aberdeen (I have a week left on the lease) as it is 15 miles closer to the Broch, and when I was getting dressed I realised I had forgotten one crucial component of my kit. My sports bra. I was being picked up in 45 minutes and I was missing the one thing which would prevent me from running that day – it would have been less of an issue had I forgotten my running shoes.

Kynon, my knight in shining armour, leapt out of bed and threw on some clothes and jumped straight in the car back down the road to Stonehaven to get it for me whilst I sorted the rest of my kit and ate my breakfast. Thankfully Naomi was happy to wait a little bit and at that time of the morning on a Sunday there was no traffic on the roads at all so he was back within 40 minutes. My sweetheart, my saviour – thank you so much darling!

We were on the road with Naomi soon enough and enjoyed the sunny drive to the Broch. Sheri was supposed to be with us too, but unfortunately she succumbed to an ear infection and was unable to make it. Upon arrival we were greeted with brilliant sunshine but a bitter cold, finished off with a cutting wind.

Shivering, we quickly huddled into the sports pavilion to register and to pick up our race garments – another great quality long-sleeve top. Unbranded and in a choice of colours (bright orange for me!), I suspect I will get just as much use from this top as I have done with the one from last year. We also got our goody bags, which I found most odd; why on earth were we getting them at the START of the race?

It was SO cold! Ironically I knew it would be the kind of weather that would result in me being warm and possibly too hot within a mile of the start if I wore too much. In the end I went for calf sleeves and running skirt on bottom, long-sleeve top and fetch t-shirt on top, with arm warmers and gloves which could be easily tucked into my race belt when I got too warm.

Soon we were surrounded by plenty of familiar faces, all equally cold and wearing plenty of layers to retain the heat. The Fetch roll-call was: RedWineRunner, crooked-smile, Old Croc, mrsshanksi, weekatiepea, SillyFencer, HalfPint, MotherDuck, the Duckinator AberdeenDavid, Claudinaha and Corrah – a great turn out!

We only managed to herd a few of us together for a picture at the start – L-R – crooked-smile, Old Croc, RedWineRunner, WeeKatiePea and her baby runner in training, and mrs shanksi with her runner in training.

Mrs Shanksi (aka Vicki who I supported at the West Highland Way race this year) had originally been recruited to pace Sheri to a sub-2 half, but since she was now without her charge she was at a loss for what to do in the race. I quickly suggested that she could extend her pacing duties to run with me and see if we could get me firmly under 2:00. After a quick discussion of tactics we decided that we’d go for sub-9 miles with a view of coming in around 1:55. This seemed quite ambitious to me initially but I was happy to step up my game. WeeKatiePea was going to run with us as well and try and stick with us as long as possible – this was her first race back after having her baby 6(?) months ago.

11am came and we reluctantly shed our outer layers and lined up ready to go. A quick blast of an air horn and the 242 of us were off on the initial loops around the park which make up the first mile and a bit of the course.

This meant that the supporters were able to see us two times before we took off into the distance through the wooded private estates and exposed country roads of the rest of the course.

Photo by the Duckinator

The first few miles flew by because we were chatting away like mad. I was charged with leading the pace but I really had to pay attention as we were coasting in the low 8s when we needed to dial back to about 8:50s

Unfortunately I somehow did something to my garmin which caused the splits to go, for want to a better word, wonky. You can see in the above shot that I’d rolled my sleeves up already and in order to do that I’d had to loosen my garmin and I think I must have hit the lap button. I heard it make a noise but I assumed we’d just passed a mile marker – I don’t tend to look at the mile counter on my garmin in races. However the next time I looked I saw it was paused – how had I done that as well?!  Analysing the data later it had been paused for about 40 seconds and lapped at .3 of mile 2 which set the lap alerts (set for each mile) completely out of kilter. I didn’t let it bother me however as all I really needed to see was average pace, but I was annoyed that I’d completely buggered it up so early in the race.

The route leads out of Fraserburgh up a hill before turning off the main road into a private estate. There is a lovely wooded section to run through, but this year it was very muddy and icy which made conditions challenging. The sun was very low in the sky one we got out of the woods and I was glad to have my sunglasses on. Despite being familiar with the course from last year, it was hillier than I remembered and there were plenty of undulations to keep us on our toes.

Chatting away merrily; Vicki, Kate and I were sailing along at quite a pace and I kept on being confused at how easy it felt to be so comfortably under 9 minute miles. I was a bit scared in case I bonked later in the course but I was feeling so good that seemed impossible. We ran though a water station at about 7.5 miles and I took a few sips to wash my mouth out and then remembered I ought to take a gel. Normally I spend the whole first 5 miles of a half look forward to taking one at mile 5 and I’d completely forgotten!

Kate stopped for a proper drink and slipped behind me and that was the last I saw of her. Vicki ran behind me with her for a little while longer before speeding back up to join me at 8 miles, which I remember her saying we passed in 1hr 12 minutes which was excellent pace. I was still ignoring my accumulated race time on my garmin so I was pleased to hear our progress.

The reason I ignore the accumulated time these days is because after a couple of years of training, I seem to have embedded certain times as mile posts when I’m out for runs and depending on what side of them each individual run falls it can usually affect my mental outlook. As I get faster I need to stop doing this, as for example in a steady training run these days I usually hit 8 miles in around 1hr 15 so when I heard we’d done 8 in 1hr 12 my initial reaction was ‘Must slow down, don’t want to burn out’. Other mile posts are – 6 miles – slower than 55 mins? I’m having a bad day, and 10 miles – slower than 1:38? Having a very bad day.

Photo by Broch Photo House –

I digress. Vicki and I continued on, now faster than ever. We tackled the off-road section on the old railway line by her running in front of me and setting the pace, and then once we were back on the road and heading back to the finish I lead for a few miles. I had warned Vicki that I tend to do huge negative splits on Halfs and this course would be especially prone to it due to the easy downhill last 5k. It was all going exactly as I planned as we ran comfortably under 8:30 minute miles. At around 11.5 miles I was starting to get out of breath so the chat had to stop and Vicki pulled ahead with an aggressive pace to bring me in for a strong finish as I clung to her feet.

I remember last year I got a horrible and debilitating stitch at 12 miles and I was wary of pushing too hard too soon – I needed to keep a little bit left in my legs for a final explosive push across the park to the finish. I tried to remember a feeling I got last week in my sports conditioning class of all places, of feeling like I was flying when I was sprinting up and down the hall and around cones; I remembered how fast and graceful I felt and how the power exploded from my legs – I was able to focus on that feeling and enjoy the final mile, I’d never felt this strong in a half before.

When we turned off the main road and we could see the finish I finally felt that delicious and longed-for feeling of relief, knowing that it would all be over soon. Now was not the time for taking the foot off the gas, my lungs were burning and my vision started to blur as I diverted all energy to pumping my legs as fast as possible. I knew it would be a PB, but by how much?

Picture by Old Croc

Into the final couple of hundred meters and there was a tiny hill to descend on our way into the park. I used this as my launch pad to release the final reserves of energy I was saving for a champagne finish. “On you go Rhona, finish strong!” Vicki called out as I passed her and the girl in front of us, raising a hand in acknowledgment. Rounding a corner and seeing the small crowd waiting I heard Kynon’s bellow above all of the noise: “C’mon Rhona, GO FOR IT!!” and that was a further push I needed to pass three more runners in the last stretch. It lasted forever with an agonising gradual incline on grass, but I finally stomped my foot down on the spray-painted line on the grass and looked at the race clock.

Photo by the Duckinator

Photo by the Duckinator

1:56.09? A three minute PB – I’ll take that!

A stagger down the finish chute and moments later I was in Kynon’s arms with steam coming off me in the chilly midday air. My 9th Half marathon and another PB blagged – sooner or later this is going to stop happening and I’ll need to actually do some targeted training to make further progress, but we’ll let future RedWineRunner worry about that for now.

When I’d got my senses back, I realised that there was no water or food at the finish and I was gasping for a drink and some sugar. Of course – we’d already been given our goodie bags, which were back in the car along with the rest of our kit… After locating some fluids we waited for Naomi to come in and cheered her across the line with Claudia who she had ran with and pushed to a new PB in 2:17.

I saw a couple runners with medals, but most were not wearing one which is very odd for a race finish area. I had just assumed that sadly there was no medal this year, but on further investigation I was told that they were handing them out back at the Pavilion where we had registered. Again, most odd, but I headed over to investigate with Naomi. When we enquired politely about what the situation was with a member of race staff, they snapped at us telling us that they’d run out but that we’d got our tshirts and goody bags at the start, had we not? Were we not happy enough with that?! I was completely taken aback by the aggressive response and walked away slightly dazed – had that actually just happened?! It was completely unnecessary and not in the slightest bit apologetic. If they’d just said that there had been a tremendous entry and they simply didn’t have enough for everyone on the day then that would have been fine but to bite runners’ heads off as though we were asking for their first-born child was totally uncalled for. If you offer a race memento, a shirt and a goodie bag in your race entry then entrants have every right to query when for whatever reason your offerings cannot be met. We were not the only ones to be given such a discourteous response and we left with a really bitter taste in the mouth which is completely out of line with every other aspect of this great race.

None of the Fetch group received a finisher’s medal despite finishing between 1:35 and 2:17. No-one at the finish was telling people to collect a medal at the Pavilion and I find it most bizarre that they weren’t being given to finishers as they, well, finished. However, the race has redeemed itself by announcing via Facebook that since they had run out, all finishers who didn’t receive a medal would be sent one if they asked, which seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Despite the unfortunate ending to the day, I had yet another wonderful race in Fraserburgh and will be back next year to see if I can finish 2013 with another PB. Maybe next time I’ll stick to my training and really come up with something to write home about? I know there’s still a lot to come off and I hope that in joining Stonehaven Running Club and training regularly with my new running comrades for the next year will unleash my inner speed demon, which I know is just dying to get out.

I’ll finish with a huge vote of thanks to Vicki who was an amazing pacer – I couldn’t have got this PB without you!


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