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Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016 – Race Report

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

3rd July 2016
1hr 56m 28s
236th of 372 Finishers
65th of 137 Females
44th of 80 Female Seniors

Stonehaven Half Marathon was  my very first Half Marathon back in 2011, which I completed in 2 hours and 15 minutes. With the notoriously hilly course it was a baptism of fire for my first race at that distance, but I came back again in 2012 to knock over 15 minutes off my time and achieve my first sub-2 half marathon time. Due to other commitments I haven’t been back since, despite it being my home half marathon which is organised by my own running club. This year was the first running of the brand new, even more challenging course, and with the weekend being free for the first time in four years, I couldn’t resist.

When we woke up on Sunday the weather was deliciously cool and cloudy. I breathed a sigh of relief as running a race in July always carries a risk of heat. Even with Stonehaven being next to the sea, as soon as you go inland a couple of miles it can get very hot out on the sheltered roads. Of more concern was my tummy – I had prepared for the race by attending a Mexican themed birthday party the day before, and whilst I had managed to stay off the tequila, I could not resist enjoying extra helpings of spicy food. Living only half a mile from the start made this a minor issue however, as I was able to enjoy the comfort of my own bathroom right up until 9am.

Kynon and I made our way to the start at Mineralwell Park where a healthy crowd was gathering. We quickly registered and went for a warm-up mile jog. I don’t usually bother with warm-ups unless I am seriously PB hunting, but the Stonehaven Half Marathon course starts its 7 mile uphill climb almost immediately after the start, so beginning the race with muscles which are ready to rock is a must. We had also ran 12 miles the day before to make for a nice back-to-back weekend of training, so we needed to shake out the legs a bit before getting started anyway.

When the hooter went we trundled off down the narrow road, restraining ourselves so not to clip the heels of those in front. We waved hello to our friend Mary who had somehow defied the odds of homemade cocktail consumption to come along to cheer us on, and turned the corner to begin the first steep climb.

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Picture: Mark McGillivary / Facebook.

My goals for this race were to finish well under two hours, blast the downhills hard, finish with nothing left in the tank, and not look crap in my club vest running in my club’s race in my club town. People down the pub sometimes labour under the misinformation that running lots of miles and long races makes means you are a good (i.e ‘fast’) runner…we all know this is not the case for 99% of us, but at least I could try my hardest on this one to prove them right.

Obviously the long, long drag uphill to Swanley burned like hell like it always does, but I just kept reminding myself that this was my back yard and my bread and butter; every long run every weekend in Fetteresso forest starts with the long drag up from my house at sea level, so I knew every twist and turn.

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Picture: Ali Robertson

That didn’t mean I had to like it, though. That hill never gets easier, and this perfect picture captures how I felt at mile 4. At mile 5ish the course changes from the past route and pulls off road into the forest for even more climbing, with a short out-and-back just for LOLs to make up some extra distance. I enjoyed this section as I do all out-and-backs, where I get to cheer on and high-five my faster mates on the way out, and do the same for those behind me on the way back.

I power-walked much of the final climb as I knew this way I could climb with just as much speed but less effort, and it let me use some different muscles for a bit. After some high-fives and water pistol skooshes from the gals at the Fetchpoint on the highest point of the course, I was ready to switch on my fast legs and take advantage of gravity to get me home quickly.

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Picture: Michael Levack/ Facebook

My next miles were super speedy and I was feeling really strong. I was wary of keeping a consistent speed and trying to stay as loose in my torso as possible in order to avoid getting a stitch. I began passing people one by one which kept me happy, and kept my focus on pushing hard. I knew that mile 12 once we re-entered the town would be flat and a bit of a shock after the downhill, so I eased off a little to save the last of my energy for a really fast finish. It turns out that ‘easing off’ come out at an 8:17 mile, which is a refreshing change!

In the final mile I gave it everything I had as I knew exactly what I had left to cover on the route. The last mile goes on to a forest path and has a few sneaky hills before you re-enter Mineralwell park, which I much prefer to the old road road which takes you back down the steep Belmont Brae road where the race starts. With about 500m to go I saw three ladies in front of me and decided I was passing them all before the finish. I attacked on a short hill and flew down the other side straight towards the line, holding on to my churning guts as I red-lined it to out-sprint the counter-attack from the club runner I had just passed.

And then it was done; there was the usual finish line staggering and dry heaving which will have traumatised a few under-fives, but at least I didn’t actually vomit this time. I felt the great satisfaction of feeling a bit wibbly and totally gubbed; the sensation of having truly left everything out on the course.

Stonehaven Half Marathon

Splits: 8:57 / 8:49 / 9:41 / 10:16 / 8:50 / 10:07 / 9:48 / 10:01 / 7:49 / 7:44 / 8:09 / 8:17 / 7:40 

I was, and am still, really pleased with this run – another strong race with a massive negative split and powerful finish. All that as well as having ran 12 miles the previous morning (and having had a fair skelp of  booze in the afternoon too). It gives me confidence that my running form is coming back slowly, and my strength and speed is returning.

This is all in aid of Autumn races though, so this summer I need to keep building and building the fire, and at just the right moment…I will light the match 🙂

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Fraserburgh Half Marathon 2015 – RACE REPORT

Fraserburgh Half Marathon 2015
15th November
fraserburgh half marathon medal

2 hours 16 minutes 12 seconds
209th of 249 Finishers
90th of 122 Females
29th of 36 Female Seniors

 

The Fraserburgh Half Marathon has been one of my favourite local races for a long time now, and is a great way to round off the running season. In the past it has always been one last test for my legs as it is a mostly flat and fast course with great PB potential, and I reset my Half Marathon PB here last year when I recorded 1hr 53m 58s in truly awful conditions. This year was sadly never going to be about speed; I DNS’d my place at Glen Ogle 33 Ultra last weekend as I knew I wasn’t fit to complete the race happily, but I knew that I’d be able run (but not race) a half marathon distance without too much of a strain and would enjoy returning to the race for the fourth time.

I picked up Naomi at 8.30am from Aberdeen in the pouring rain. Since I had long resigned myself that the race was to be a run (and an uncomfortable one at that) I wasn’t too fussed about the grim weather and just accepted it as another added difficulty for the day. I had done myself no favours by prepping for the race by spending the afternoon in the pub in Edinburgh with some friends, eating a delicious curry, and then getting the last train back to Stonehaven. Naomi, on the other hand, had completed the Illuminator 15 mile run the previous night, so neither of us were in shape for anything other than a Long Slow Run with cake at the end.

IMG_6463

After registering we headed back to the car to keep warm. It was mainly dry in the Broch but the sea breeze was brutal. Since a mild Autumn and two weeks in the States has completely broken my ability to be resilient to the Scottish winter, I took no chances with my attire and wore long tights, gloves, and a thermal top over my t-shirt. Rather than my Stonehaven Running Club top, I decided to wear my 2013 Paris Marathon finishers t-shirt to honour the horrific events of Friday night and observed that several others had done the same.

At about 10:45am we headed back to the Pavillion to meet up with others and complain about the cold. The Broch Half is always very wintery but at least it was nowhere near as wet as last year. At 11am sharp the gun went off and the crowd of runners made their way down the street and out of the town towards the countryside.

fraserburgh half marathon 2015

Image courtesy of Broch Photo House / Facebook

 

fraserburgh half marathon 2015

Image courtesy of Broch Photo House / Facebook

 

We ran steadily through the first two miles to the first water point and took a drink whilst walking. It was pleasant to run through the woods and appreciate the Autumnal surroundings without constantly worrying about pace or drinking water too quickly and getting a stitch. When we had talked about the race before the start we thought about executing a regulated run/walk strategy such as run 0.9/walk 0.1, but in the end we were running at such a steady pace that we didn’t feel the need to walk other than at one or two random points and just chatted our way around the course as the miles slipped by.

As ever the course was very well marshaled and although the roads are obviously open, there was very little traffic. The race had decided to trial an early start wave at 10am this year for those who thought they might take longer than 2:30, to allow them to enjoy the same support at the finish as the majority of racers. Several of the early start wave passed us on their return to town and it was great to cheer them on and give them a high five. I think in principal it worked well and it certainly seems that the runners who took the early start found it to be a benefit, but in future I think it should be an option you tick when you register. Runners had to request to join the early start when they registered and some had to really plead their case as they had completed a 10k quicker than the 1hr 15m benchmark which had been set to allow participation in that wave. There are plenty of reasons why someone might know they will take longer than usual in a run such as injury or accompanying a slower friend. I’m sure the organisers will come up with a slicker strategy for next year as in general it seems to have been well received.

We made our way around the ‘lollypop’ of the course and were buffeted by chilly winds and some rain in all directions, but in general the conditions were brilliant for racing. On the return to the finish, the last 1.5 miles of the route takes a looped circuit through a housing estate which brings you agonisingly close to the finish, but allows for spectators to see when their runner is approaching. Both Naomi and I’s competitive streak ignited when we saw a handful of runners up ahead and we unspeakingly picked up the pace to glide past them and finish strongly.

Fraserburgh half marathon 2015

Picture by Greg Bruce

Fraserburgh half marathon 2015

With the addition of chip timing and a headline sponsor, the finish line was a bit more lively than usual with a finishing arch, a PA system pumping out music and an announcement for each finisher. We finished together but Naomi’s chip must have been across the line before mine as she took the higher position!

After crossing the line we grabbed some water and just went straight to the car to put some warm dry clothes on. It hadn’t been raining but the drizzle had been enough to soak you through. We then headed with haste towards the South Church Hall for food and cakes…

Fraserburgh half marathon 2015

Photo by Monica Rennie

 

In addition to this there was tea, coffee and juice, six different types of soup, and trays of hot, fresh sausage rolls. They know how to do a fine piece in the Broch for sure. Thanks again to Fraserburgh Running Club for hosting another fantastic event; as ever – I will be back!

fraserburgh half marathon 2015

 

Did you race this weekend?
What’s the best post-race spread you’ve ever seen?
Have you any more races this season?

The Fare Challenge Half Marathon – RACE REPORT

The Fare Challenge
KR Steel Half Marathon
23rd August 2015

The Fare Challenge medal2 hours 44 minutes 2 seconds
159th of 186 Finishers
51st of 73 Females
16 of 24 F Seniors

Let’s be honest; taking part in The Fare Challenge Half Marathon less than 20 hours after completing the Speyside Way Ultramarathon (37 miles) was always going to be a bit of an ask. I’m never one to shy away from a challenge, but when I couldn’t physically fit my trail shoes onto my swollen, blistered feet the next morning, I knew I was in for a corker…

Thankfully I had been able to score a very decent night of sleep, so whilst I was physically very tired, I felt rested. My legs were fatigued, but not particularly sore. My hunger, on the other hand, was insatiable; I ate a peanut butter bagel, a banana, a flapjack bar…but it felt like they evaporated before they even reached my stomach. Before I could even think about putting any shoes on I had to deal with the blisters which had plagued my feet the day before and were still bulging like ripe cherries. I sterilised a needle and drained them all, before placing Compeed blister plasters over them and then wrapping the balls of each foot and each big toe in Rock Tape. It didn’t feel very nice but it was the best I could do before selecting a pair of suitable shoes. My Salomon Speed Cross 3s would have been ideal, but they were far too narrow for my puffed up trotters and the toe box pinched on my blisters. I selected my widest and most comfortable shoes – my Asics Gel Nimbus 15s.

the fare challenge elevation

The Fare Challenge – 1,837ft Elevation Gain

Ali and Kate picked me up at 9.45am and we headed to Raemoir House Hotel, near Banchory, where all three of the Fare Challenge races started. The race offers a 5k and 10k as well as a Half Marathon, and offers an array of food, fun and activities for families and friends so an entire day out can be enjoyed if the weather is in your favour. Unusually, North East Scotland managed a second consecutive day of beautiful weather, and the sun was shining strongly. Whilst running in heat is really not something I enjoy, the prospect of spending a few hours in the sunshine on beautiful trails made pushing through the fatigue and hunger a lot easier.

the fare challenge registration

Registration took place in a big marquee which was already busy when we arrived at 10.30. There were refreshments on sale and a variety of stalls, but like everyone else who was running, I got my number and then joined the toilet queue. There were about 12 portaloos which were just about doing the job, but there could have done with being more when you consider all of the friends and family who were attending as well.

IMG_4839

I was glad to meet up with David and Jeni before we started to get a group photo. We were all feeling a little weary but nothing was going to stop us getting the job done. At 12pm the Half Marathon start was announced and after assembling alongside the 10k runners, we were all set off at the same time. Mentally this made the start a little bit easier – for every person who shot by me I just assumed they were doing the 10k so would naturally be going faster.

Photo from The Fare Challenge

Photo from The Fare Challenge

The Fare Challenge is a trail race with lots of ups and downs but I wasn’t familiar with the course at all. It starts from the grounds of Raemoir House Hotel and curls straight up the Hill of Fare for 3 miles. I was in no hurry to push myself and took the first mile easily, assessing what was hurting and what felt ok. When we reached the start of the hill I immediately started to power walk; I was already quite near the back but this meant I temporarily slipped back even further. Within a quarter of a mile my well-honed ultra hill stomp was already catching up with those who had tackled the start of the hill with a little too much enthusiasm, and I made steady progress up and up through the hot forest until the path cleared the tree line and we were out on the exposed hillside.

It was actually very windy up on the hill so the heat was barely an issue. I was glad for my sun screen though as the sun itself would be strong. Reaching the top of the summit there was a paramedic and a landrover which was the first of many on the course – the organisers did an excellent job in putting in provisions on the remote course to look after people who might not have the best of days. From the other side of the hill I could see all the way down and up the other side to the next summit, as well as the runners who were already way along the next hillside in miles 4, 5 and 6. I really was pretty far back in the field; I would have loved to have used my tired legs as an excuse, but there was no sign of Jeni and David who had scooted away up the hill. I’m just a bit slow right now…

the fare challenge route map

I plodded on though; my feet were really, really sore but they weren’t getting worse than they had been, and splashing through the hillside streams provided icy cold relief. Despite it being a hot day it had rained torrentially the night before so there was a lot of water coming off the hills. This also made for some perilous ascents and descents for me in my road shoes; whilst the terrain was by no means technical I would have benefited from some extra grip in wet mud. As you can see from the elevation profile the route was very bumpy; up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. There was water at two miles, seven miles, and marshalls at most turning points.

At mile 7 there was a cruel out and back up a hill track which allowed you to say hello and well done to your fellow runners, or ignore them as I found out. The field was quite spread out now with runners perhaps every 200 meters or so. I smiled and said well done to everyone I passed on my way up and down; I got one reply and two acknowledgements which was a real shame. The more runners who ignored me, the bigger my smile became. If you can’t say hello and greet a fellow runner whilst out running in beautiful countryside on a sunny day, then you may as well stick to a treadmill. Even the shittest run gets better with a smile and a chat…every ultra runner knows that, and usually those at the back are the chattiest. Strange times.

However; after mile 7 we were into a narrow forest track and out of the sun. The track got good and muddy and there were lots of puddles to jump in. The sunshine was making the pine trees smell amazing and I had finally shaken out my aches and pains; a combination of this and more down hill than up meant I was able to make up some places. Miles 9 – 11 were on forestry road and gently undulating, but now completely out of the wind and very warm. The water stations provided bottles (and SIS gels at mile 9)  but I was glad to have taken a hand-held bottle with me to sip on throughout. Mile 11 had a bit of a savage downhill which gave me a dreadful stitch, but finally we got back down to road level and re-entered the hotel grounds.

The 12 mile marker was right next to the carpark entrance which cruelly took us so close to the finish before back up the hill for another half mile. We the returned the the start/finish line by the same route as the first mile, with a 100 meter uphill grass finish to cross the line. I had estimated around 2hr30 – 2hr40 for a finish time, so 2hr 44m wasn’t too far off for a lifetime worst half marathon time. Jeni did 2:16 and David did 1:59 (!!), with the male and female winners completing the course in 1hr24 and 1hr43 respectively.

fare_challenge_finisher

The medal is an absolute beast and quite heavy to hang around your neck! Upon finishing I was handed a goody bag and my medal, and tottered out to find my friends. Having started the race hungry I was feeling very empty and rather light-headed; I was desperate for a drink or a snack, so the only disappointing aspect of the day was that there was no post-race food for the runners. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by ultras and small club races, but I would expect at least a banana and a cup of tea or something. There was a little bottle of water in the goody bag which was most welcome, but I had to tap Kate for some change to go and get a can of coke from the hotel marquee. There was food available there but at quite a price, and you could even buy a bottle of champagne if you liked.

Fare_Challenge_start

At £26, the Fare Challenge is not the cheapest half marathon in the North East but it offers a unique experience and a beautiful course. The organisers have worked extremely hard to produce an event which is inclusive for all and should hopefully act as a gateway to the joys trail running for many. The route is well marshalled and very challenging; I’d love to come back and give it a go on fresh legs and see how much time I’d slice off. I’d also love to come back and see less people dropping their gel packets on the trail and being a bit cheerier on the run, but these are two things which road runners exploring the trails for the first time can sometimes be not quite up to speed on which is a real shame.

IMG_4840

It was still a stunning evening when I got home and Kynon and I enjoyed some beers and crisps in the setting sunshine before I ate my weight in Chinese food. I really enjoyed both races and would love to return to either again in the future. The back-to-back experience was a fun challenge made more enjoyable by the weather, but it was very tiring especially off the back of a summer of recovery and inconsistent training. I took a week to get back in my running shoes and even longer to get this report up – as ever, the MSc dissertation is taking priority, but I’m now in the last few weeks of hard work!

‘Til next time,

~RWR

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