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Strathearn Marathon 2017 | Race Report

Strathearn Marathon 2017
11th June

strathearn marathon medal 2017

4h 22m 7s
95th of 134 finishers
24th of 27 Females
9th of 14 Female Seniors

The Strathearn Marathon is a small club race hosted by the Strathearn Harriers in beautiful rural Perthshire. I ran this race for the first time last year on Naomi’s recommendation, and despite getting thoroughly soaked I enjoyed the race and the scenic route tremendously. I signed up again earlier this year and looked forward to a second go at the undulating route with the possibility of improving upon last year’s time. After a strong run at Stirling Marathon three weeks prior, I believed I would be able to bring my time much closer to four hours and mark a season’s best for marathon distance in 2017.

When race morning arrived it was after a busy and stressful week at which had even included a day trip to Birmingham for a big meeting on Thursday. I had also traveled from Edinburgh to Stonehaven late on the Friday evening for the luxury of spending a rare day with my husband on the Saturday, before an early night to try and rest before shipping out again at 6am on the Sunday.

I could also detail the tremendous amount of crap I had eaten and drank in the days prior to the race, but it’s of no real relevance other than that I highly recommend access to a Business Class lounge if you have to hang around in an airport for three hours, because the free alcohol quickly turns a very long day into a very good day. As usual, my pre-race fueling strategy was impeccable.

Race Morning

When Naomi picked me up at 6am for the 2 hour drive I wasn’t feeling on my best form, but it was great to share the car ride with her and catch up on life. I had eaten my dinner quite late the night before and was not feeling hungry at all which was disconcerting, as was the uncomfortable feelings in my stomach and guts.

As we traveled further South the weather got worse and worse, with rain lashing down and the wind buffeting the car. My enthusiasm for running twenty six miles began to wane and I questioned why I was casually doing a third marathon in six weeks, and if there was any way at all in which I could weasel out of it. Never the less, we parked up and swam over to registration, getting utterly soaked in even a short two minute walk. After picking up our numbers we returned to the car and stayed there in relative safely until it was time to get ready to run.

Much to our delight, the weather made a drastic improvement in the final half hour before the gun and whilst it was still cold and quite blustery, the rain had moved on. I said hello to a lot of friends who had finally emerged from their cars and the assembly at the starting line was a jovial group of chums ready to go. After the customary starting lap of the Cultybraggan Camp, we left the starting area and traveled out into the hills for our 26 mile jaunt.

It’s not unusual for me to forget how hilly some routes are, and Strathearn Marathon is no exception. The first four miles are a long drag uphill, where at times it can be more efficient to walk. At the top of the hill the route follows an old military road route which is very exposed and on this occasion there was a wicked headwind to battle. I was steadily plodding along in the company of a small group of older gentlemen, but the effort I was having to maintain to keep below 10 minute miles was quite significant.

Thanks to FishyGordon’s RunPix

At ten miles there was the first of the two personalised water stations, where you could have your own bottle presented to you. This is one of the advantages of tiny club-run races, and I was really looking forward to my Lucozade. I still hadn’t been feeling particularly hungry but I had forced myself to have a gel at 6 miles and the Lucozade would provide some more liquid calories on the go.

Somewhere around the 14 mile mark, the skies cleared and the sun came blazing out. This combined with the wet pavements and foliage meant that the atmosphere became steamy and humid. As it had been under 10C plus windchill when the race started I was wearing a  vest, t-shirt, and long sleeve top – all black, of course. I quickly became far too hot and removed some of my layers in an attempt to keep cool.

strathearn marathon 2017 tony wayte

Thanks to Tony Wayte

At Crieff (18 miles) I decided I needed to ditch the layers which I was carrying in my hand, and threw them under a bush on the outskirts of the town for collection later on. This meant I had my hands free to take a water bottle as well as my next personal bottle at the next water station on the other side of Crieff, and keep moving without having to concentrate on juggling items.

Whilst it was very warm I was feeling good and running fairly steadily well under 10 minute miles. My splits are all over the place, but this reflects the hilly nature of the course. My stomach had been giving me some discomfort and I hadn’t really committed early in the race to getting around the course any quicker than necessary, so I knew that this would be yet another marathon finish in the 4:16 – 4:22 bracket that seems to be my signature of late.

The last few miles were as tough as they always are, but I felt like I still had some significant energy left so I pushed as hard as I could to move quickly. I targeted each runner ahead of me and drew them in to overtake, and I managed to catch quite a significant amount of runners in the last 5 miles. We had another drastic change of weather at 24 miles when the skies opened and another deluge left me drenched, but in reality this was really refreshing and cooled down my over-heating skin.

strathearn marathon 2017 fishygordon 3

Thanks to FishyGordon’s RunPix

I finished strongly and flew down the finishing straight with a smile, captured nicely here by FishyGordon who kindly provided event photographs for free. You can check out his Facebook page here.

My time? 4hrs 22m 7s – another steady marathon run clocked up, and just seven seconds slower than when I ran the London Marathon whilst recovering from the flu. I am beginning to think I need to put a bit more effort into these events, as my last five road marathons have all been within five minutes of each other and I know I’m capable of a lot more.

strathearn marathon 2017 fishygordon 2

Thanks to FishyGordon’s RunPix

So what’s next?

Well, I’m taking a break from marathoning over the summer and will be once again trying to bring some kind of consistency into my training, have another go at losing that stone of fat that has persistently clung to my body since 2015, and prepare for the Glenmore 12 hour race in September, and of course, the Chicago Marathon in October. I’m not a fan of putting massive pressure on myself to PB at Chicago as I expect it will be pretty hot and jetlag will probably feature, but I would like to arrive at the start line knowing that I’ve put in some actual work and am capable of a strong and enjoyable run.

In the meantime though I have an exciting partnership to announce next week, which will see me turn my hand to something completely new in July! Stay tuned to find out more!

Stirling Marathon Race Report | Stirling Marathon 2017

Stirling Marathon

21st May 2017

stirling marathon medal
4h 16m 49s
2065th place overall
510th Female
149th Female Senior

In May 2016, it was announced that the Great Run group was extending their Great Run British Marathon Series, and that Scotland was to get a new marathon. Billed as the Stirling Scottish Marathon, the event was received with enthusiasm by many as a ‘big city’ alternative to the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, with a route which would combine scenic running through the Heart of Scotland with an impressive finish in the shadow of Stirling Castle.

I was excited to hear about the new race and was delighted to receive a media place from Great Run in order to cover the event for Red Wine Runner. My original Spring 2017 plans were to PB at the London Marathon and then have a jog around Stirling for fun, taking the opportunity to soak in as much of the race atmosphere as possible. However, after my London plans were derailed by a nasty bout of flu, I found myself on recovery mode for a little longer than planned. I headed to Stirling with legs which were very well rested, but still with no intentions to try and set a new personal best. I wasn’t really sure what I would get on the day, but I just I wanted to enjoy myself and clock up my 28th marathon finish at this exciting, inaugural event.

I arrived at my friend Jemma’s house in Stirling on Saturday afternoon, and we spent the evening with her husband and his sister, Iona, eating food, drinking wine and discussing our plans for the race. We had to think about which shuttle bus to get to the start, and our cheering squad had to figure out their logistics too. It really could not be over-estimated how much Stirling had embraced this new event – with the entire city centre and surrounding roads being completely shut down to accommodate the runners, the race had pretty much taken over Central Scotland.

Race Morning

After a good night’s sleep we got up at 6am for coffee and breakfast. With all our gear ready, we left the house an hour later, intending to catch the 0720am shuttle bus from Stirling Bus Station. Due to so many roads being closed, the race had provided shuttle transport to the start at Blair Drummond Safari Park which all runners were strongly encouraged to take. There were various park and ride collection points around the Stirling area, with all runners allegedly being accounted for for transport. I was a bit nervous about this – 6,500 runners is a lot of people, and I didn’t recall being asked where I was intending to travel from on race morning. How would they know how many buses to send, and where?

Unfortunately when we arrived at the bus station, we were joining a queue several hundred people long which extended all the way around the concourse. Jemma spotted a friend near the start who had been waiting since 0630, and had seen only two buses turn up, both only able to take a tiny handful of runners due to them being full from earlier collection points out of town. This wasn’t the greatest start to the day, and with no event staff on the ground, communications on how the issue was to be solved was poor. I busied myself on my phone to try and get an answer via Twitter, if only to avoid thinking about how much I needed the toilet…

stirling marathon shuttle bus

Two empty double-decker buses showed up about 0745 though, so in the grand scheme of things we were not inconvenienced too greatly. Some Security personnel directed the long snake of the queue across the concourse to the bus stands and started herding us on to the second bus from the back of the queue first, which understandably *really* irritated some of the runners who had been waiting for much longer. This was regrettable, but we really didn’t have a choice other than to get on as directed. The buses pulled away to a selection of colourful language and two-fingered salutes from the crowd that was left with just over an hour until the start of the race.

stirling marathon start

As previously mentioned, the race starts in the impressive surroundings of Blair Drummond Safari Park. The buses dropped us off at the gates and then we had about a mile’s walk to the start area. When we arrived, Jemma and I went straight to the toilet queues as we were both absolutely bursting. Regrettably there seemed to be somewhat less Portaloos than the demand required, and we spent the next 30 mins inching forward bit by bit. The Portaloos were in addition to other park toilets, but I had hoped that the queues for the Portaloos would move more quickly…

At 9am when the runners were called to their pens for the warm up I was still in the queue with my kit bag, as I still was when the Orange Wave, which I was placed in, started their race. Upon exiting my Portaloo, I raced to where Jemma and Chris were sorting their kit and quickly did some last minute checks before sprinting to my allocated baggage bus to deposit my bag. Together we jogged towards the back of the next wave who had been brought up to the starting line, and with a sigh of relief realised that we could finally get on with the easy bit – running the marathon.

stirling marathon start

The Great Run Group do sporting ceremony very well, and we all felt roused by the music and announcements in the minutes before we crossed the line. Dozens of park rangers were lining the first part of the route alongside cute jungle animal characters; despite the stressful start to the day, as soon as I got a high-five from a Lion and an Elephant I knew everything was going to be just fine.

stirling marathon start

stirling marathon start

Speaking of elephants… this guy came out to cheer too:

stirling marathon safari park

 And this majestic beast was overseeing proceedings from the sidelines. Also spotted – a common-or-garden Red Wine Runner not looking where she is going.

Image from the Metro

Image from the Metro

So we were finally on our way; through the Safari Park before on to the closed A84 road heading towards Doune. There was a little out-and-back where I was able to shout to some friends including Naomi, who was just up ahead. It was truly amazing how many people I knew taking part, especially people from the Scottish ultrarunning community who hadn’t run a road marathon in years, if ever. It seemed like everyone had wanted to be a part of the first running of the Stirling Marathon even if they had sworn off tarmac running for good.

After about a mile I caught up with Naomi, and she and I spent the next 6 miles trotting along together steadily and catching up. It turned out that she had had quite a stressful morning getting to the start via the Park and Ride service; given the amount of feedback which has been deluged on the Stirling Marathon Facebook page, I do hope they can use this first year as a steep learning curve and improve the transport for next year.

stirling marathon route

At four miles we ran through the tiny town of Doune, where there were pipe bands, drummers, and 100s of enthusiastic supporters. Even at this early stage we had seen that the people who lived along the route were willing to turn out their full support for the race and make us feel welcomed as we ran through their towns and villages. Between six and seven miles Naomi and I went our separate ways; we’ve ran together for years now and I was aware that I was pulling her on a bit – she’s not daft enough to burn out too early in a marathon so I drifted ahead as we approached Dunblane.

The route swept through the town from the West to the South, and from the first hand-made ‘Welcome To Dunblane!’ banner, the road was packed with crowds for the entire two miles. The outpouring of support was phenomenal; young and old, they cheered us through their town and offered jelly beans, orange slices, and high fives. My face actually started to ache from all the smiling – I know the support in London is legendary, but this somehow felt so much more authentic and closer to home.

Next up at ten miles was Bridge of Allan. Again, even though the rain was now steadily pouring, the crowds stayed out to cheer. The route then presented a tough hill as we took a brief lollipop shaped tour around the University of Stirling, and by the time we were running past the foot of the Wallace Monument, we had hit half way and it was time to look out for Iona, Duncan, and other assorted friends waiting to see us and deliver high-fives.

I did a quick body-check at half way to assess how I felt. I had passed half way in 2hrs 06m which was promising, as I was feeling really good and my legs definitely had some pep in them. I had been checking my watch occasionally the last few miles and was comfortably running around 9:30/9:40 pace without trying, so I decided to try and stick to that and see what happened. I knew we’d hit Stirling city centre and the laps at about 18 miles, and I had been mentally visualising the race as a sprint finish with an 18 mile warm up.

stirling marathon finish

A lot of people had been apprehensive of how the lap system would work. The route map showed that we would go around the city two and a half times before finishing at the foot of the castle, where there was a lane system in place – keep right to carry on, keep left to finish. There were also timing maps to verify that every finisher had completed the correct distance. I think this system worked ok, but completing the lapped section was very tough mentally and I had to work hard to keep my head together.

stirling marathon laps

Upon entering the city loop, we immediately merged with fast runners who were completing their final loop and were sprinting through the city. I was conscious to not get in people’s way, but it was hard when they were ducking and weaving around the slower runners. The support from the crowd was brilliant but I quickly realised I had to ignore it as I still had 7 miles to run, despite the well meaning shouts of ‘you’re nearly there!’ and the big signs announcing ‘800m To Go’, and ‘400m To Go’. Running past the finish line area not just once, but twice, was quite soul destroying, and required a degree of tenacity to keep going.

The loop consisted of a climb into the city centre then a section going right through the middle of the town. It had been raining for a couple of hours which made the paving underfoot very slippery, and the sections of road which were cobbled were treacherous! After passing through the centre, the loop went past the finish and then negotiated a couple of steep underpasses on a roundabout which were narrow and slippery. We then went through a housing estate with lots of friendly supporters, and then returned to the start of the loop after climbing up a nasty lung-bursting hill.

Eventually it was my turn to complete a final lap of the city and finally let the rousing cheers of the crowd spur me on. There were quite a few friends scattered around and seeing them on my way gave me a last boost for a strong finish, as I finally got to ‘Keep Left’ and cross the line.

stirling marathon medal

I was really pleased with my race. I felt very strong throughout most of the miles and maintained a really even pace without a single walking break.  I haven’t had many good runs after London and I was worried that I’d lost a lot of fitness, but this is clearly not the case and I am more recovered from my illness than I thought! I’m excited to get back to training again, and will be tackling the Strathearn Marathon in two weeks’ time with renewed confidence.

stirling marathon

All in all, I think the Stirling Marathon has the potential to be a really great race. There are one or two issues which stand out which need change or improvement, such as the situations with the buses and the toilets, but hopefully the organisers will listen to the feedback from runners and improve for next year. I’m still not convinced about the loops of the city however, and would be in favour of accommodating a few miles elsewhere earlier in the route in order to reduce the amount of laps.

Thanks again to Great Run for the opportunity to run at this new event!

Did you run the Stirling Marathon?
What do you think of races with laps?

London Marathon 2017 | Race Report

London Marathon 2017London Marathon Medal 2017

23rd April 2017

Time: 4h 22m 0s

Place: 18,533 of 39,349
Gender: 5030 of 14,468
Category: 2750 of 8768

Getting to the start of the London Marathon has not been a straight forward journey for me. Entry through the general race ballot is notoriously hard to achieve, and even more so nowadays when the ballot is open for five days. Estimates put your chances of gaining one of the precious 10,000 ballot places at odds of around 1 in 26, with your other options being a Good For Age place, a UK Athletics Running Club place (one granted per 50 members of an affiliated club), or taking on the responsibility of a charity place with the associated fundraising.

After seven consecutive years of failing in the ballot, I was royally fed up. It seemed that year after year I defied the increasingly smaller odds to continue to miss out on a place which I found endlessly frustrating. My running club is not affiliated to Scottish Athletics, I chose increasing distance over increasing my speed a long time ago, and other than my very first race seven years ago I have never been a charity runner…

When I was offered the opportunity to run the race with Reebok as part of a team of ambassadors celebrating the launch of their new Floatride shoe, I was utterly delighted. Not only a place in the race which had evaded me for years, but the services of a coach, a bundle of kit, and two pairs of shoes as well! I felt very lucky that the blog which I set up so many years ago to write about my training has blossomed into something which attracts opportunities such as this.

Then, the week before the race I got the flu…

I have already covered the gory details in my previous post, but I was very ill in the seven days before the race and was only able to make the final decision to race less than 24 hours before the starting gun went. Not ideal preparation by anyone’s standards, but let it never be left unsaid that when I’m determined to achieve something I will fight tooth and nail until I achieve my goal. I was sitting in a hotel room under a mile from the start of the London Marathon 2017 – and nothing was going to stop me crossing that finish line.


I was staying in Canary Wharf, so my journey to the Red Start was very straight forward. A quick ride on the DLR and I was in Greenwich and walking with the masses to the starting area. I had no idea what the best time to arrive would be, so I aimed for about 8.30am which seemed sensibly early for the 10 am start. I went to the toilet before finding a tree to sit down under and lean against and tried to listen to some music. Unfortunately the mobile networks seemed to be overwhelmed already and I couldn’t connect to Spotify, so instead, I just people-watched and tried to relax.


I was nervous in case I had radically misjudged how recovered I was; perhaps I might get a couple of hours into the race and then have to pull out. Unlike most pre-race nerves I couldn’t rationalise this away – it was a real concern and a very valid one. I kept on worrying in case I had made a poor choice and one that I would live (or not) to regret.

I ate a banana at 9.30am and went for one last pee before moving to my corral. I was in Red 4, which was relatively close to the starting line meaning no half hour wait to get going after the gun went! I had purchased a cheap Primark hoody to wear to keep warm in the final hours which reluctantly I stripped off and threw to the side as we started moving forward; in the sunshine it was warm, but there was an early morning chill in the air which was cold on my bare skin – thankfully I’ve been running long enough to know that these conditions were perfect, and within 10 minutes of the race I would be perfectly warm.


I wasn’t sure how I was feeling; sadly the week’s illness had really taken some of the shine off the experience for me. I was expecting some huge waves of emotion to hit as I finally found myself on the starting line of the London Marathon, but in all honesty I couldn’t think beyond the first 5k. I didn’t know anyone in the Red Start to meet up with, and I’m an antisocial creature at the best of times so I wasn’t talking to anyone around me. I was excited to finally get moving, but was underwhelmed by the starting line experience – the footage you see on the television with the grandstands, the music, and the hot air balloons is the Blue and Green start…the Red Start has a gantry and a timing mat with a sprinkling of people clapping and that’s it – you’re on your way.


I’ve been thinking about how to write this race report in an engaging manner – there is only so much you can say about running the 26.2 mile distance when you do it over and over again, especially if on an occasion your effort is just to finish rather than to reach a goal. There’s no point in listing my mile splits – I ran a metronomic 10 minute mile pace for almost the entire race, splitting the first five 5k splits around 30 minutes each, before slowing a little for the last three 5k splits, recording 31:34, 32:21 and 32:22 in the final 15k after having a couple of short walking breaks. Here’s some of the data provided by the race – a very solidly average performance…

london marathon 2017

london marathon 2017

So what did I see on on my 26.2 mile journey?

The first 5k heads out East, deep into residential London; I knew about this but was pleasantly surprised to still see moderate support out and about at just after 10am. People were sitting in their gardens in the sunshine enjoying a glass of fizz with their breakfast, and there were already community bands out performing. We passed a couple of huge Evangelical or Baptist churches where the congregation was out in force with megaphones and music, piling blessings and encouragement upon us all as we danced by.

I loved how engaged the crowds were; every pub was open early and people were getting stuck into the booze and shouting with the enthusiasm that only an Englishman on his third pint of pre-noon Carling on St Georges day can deliver.   It’s the British way; if there is live sport on, you grab a beer and go and shout at the underdogs. We’re so used to being shit at sport that we are born happy to get out there and cheer on competitors, especially if they’re not winning. We love to see people fighting hard for whatever it is they are working for, and events such as the 2012 Olympics and the Commonwealth Games have only brought mass participation sport further into the public eye.

By 10k I was beginning to realise there was a common theme to the shout outs being thrown in my direction – they all seemed to involve Jesus in some regard, so I should have been less surprised when I was overtaken by a bearded and shaggy haired man, naked but for a loin cloth and a massive crucifix strapped to his back, running barefoot. Obviously. I’ve come across Barefoot Jesus before and he’s a pain in the backside. His cross has a habit of bashing you on the shoulder, and he doesn’t like people taking selfies with him. You need a sense of humor if you’re going to be that much of a twat in a race, but he obviously didn’t have room to pack one in his minimal attire. He’s been pestering runners at World Marathon Majors around the world for a while, and on Sunday it was my turn…

london marathon 2017

I feel like it is at this point in the story that I should mention that my friend Mary’s very, very Catholic Mother was quite worried on my behalf when Mary told me that I was poorly, but was still attempting to run the race. Mary’s Mum decided to say a decade of the Rosary for me to help me on my way. Due to me being a massive Atheist I guess the prayers got a little diluted, and what I got instead was my own personal Jesus following me around the course, annoying me into going faster to get away from him. I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways…

Moving on, and a highlight of passing Trinity College was the balcony of people dressed in slightly disheveled Tuxedos and ball gowns still going hard on the Champagne after a marathon session of their own. 10/10 awarded for enthusiasm and some superb singing to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. This was quickly contrasted with the slightly more gritty streets of Bermondsey where there were DJs playing some dank beats straight out of their Mum’s front garden bringing a different flavour of party out on to the streets altogether. Everything which I had read and heard was true – the London Marathon is a Tour de Force of the best parts of British culture, served with a healthy dollop of London attitude.

13 miles in

Before I knew it I had danced myself half way around the course and the iconic crossing of Tower Bridge was upon me. Here I took my one and only picture during the race; it was so, so busy that I was scared to drop my phone and then have to stop to collect it, causing a runner pile-up and being a huge pain in the ass.


By now my face was hurting a little from grinning so hard; the vibes from the crowd were INSANE, I’ve never experienced so many people giving a crap about the sport which I graft away at day-in-day-out. They were cheering every single last runner like they meant the world to them, and it filled my heart right up to the brim. Of course I wasn’t feeling great; I was feeling dizzy, nauseated, and coughing like a drain, but those crowds made it easy to ignore the struggle and focus on anything other than my churning insides.


Turning a hard right after we crossed the bridge took us on to the two-way section where the fastest UK club runners were making their way through their last five miles. This was a welcome distraction from the rising temperatures as I saw so many awesome International athletes grinding away – Devon Yanko, Chrissie Wellington, Scott Overall – along with a selection of familiar vests from Scotland including the three speedy Metro Aberdeen lasses who went under 3 hours. I wanted to join in the shouts of support to the other side of the road, but my breathing was a tricky balance and I needed to keep my heart rate under control.

I had known since the start that to succeed in the race I would need to keep my heart rate low and not work too hard – basically I needed to ‘ultra shuffle’ my way around and never get out of breath. Thankfully there are no serious hills on the London Marathon course so trotting around on minimal effort was easy. However, as the heat rose to somewhere perhaps around 16C, it became more of a challenge and I started to feel a bit more ‘spangly’ – dizzy, anxious, and panicky. I took on a sensible amount of water and Lucozade when each were offered, but also used the remaining water in my bottles to cool myself down which helped a lot.

The crowds on the Isle of Dogs were less intense and contrary to many reports I’ve read, there were actually some gaps at the barriers between miles 15 and 20. This was almost a welcome break from the noise, but these were tough miles for me (as they are in every marathon) and I had to play some mental tricks to keep my head in the game. I knew that as soon as I hit 20 I would be fine, and the ‘difficult’ five miles of a marathon are usually over in 45-50 minutes. When you think about it that way, I think it seems much less of a challenge.

One in 40,000

At this point I will address the crowding on the course. We all know how busy the London Marathon is and you just need to look at any of the television coverage of the masses to know how challenging it is to run in your own space unless you really are up the very sharp end of the race. I knew that this was going to be a hazard and I tried to not let it bother me, but by 20 miles in, many of my fellow runners were working my last nerve. Stopping dead in the middle of the road, diving across peoples paths to go and see supporters, throwing bottles or litter with no due attention, slowing to a walk without moving to the side, and then there was the monstrosities which were the Pace Groups; filled with many runners who believed that their right to a time they desired trumped my right to run a safe race… In particular, the Red Sub-4 hour pace group, comprised of a cloud of a couple of hundred runners taking over the entire road, steamrolling past and shoving runners out of the way. I was ‘run over’ by them about 10 miles in and I wanted to clothes-line the whole bunch for their bad race etiquette – very poor behaviour indeed.

But – it’s London, and that’s what you get out there. I’m just glad I didn’t try to achieve a Personal Best as the crowds would have made it impossible and I recorded a distance of 26.7 miles as I ducked and weaved around those who exist within their own oblivious bubble.

The Final Push

As I eased into the last 6 miles the miles became less easy, and I started to have to try a little harder to keep it moving steadily. However, impossible as it may seem, the crowds were getting even more enthusiastic and they pulled me on when I was desperate for just a tiny walking break. I took my first walk of the whole race somewhere in the 23rd mile, and one final one in the Blackfriars Underpass in mile 24, where a festival-sized PA system was blaring the Chase and Status song ‘Blind Faith’ which gave me chills as I got ready to run again. In an amazing bit of timing, the chorus dropped just as I left the tunnel to the roar of the crowd cheering us like heroes as we ran out into the sunshine – it was here that the emotion finally hit and I found tears prickling my eyes as I ran into the final mile of the race.

The finish is just as spectacular as it looks on television. Curving around the last bend on to The Mall, with the flags flying, the grandstands full of people, and the finishing gantries… is an amazing feeling. I looked for the finish line cameras and waved and blew kisses, keeping everything crossed that Kynon and my family would be watching at home. I know I put them through a lot of worry at times and my poor Mother was probably beside herself following me on the tracker all day in case I stopped moving, so I really wanted them to see that I was ok.

london marathon 2017

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were handing out finishers medals in one finishing chute but I didn’t fancy my chances of not throwing up all over the Royals, so I gave that chute a swerve and chose the one right next to it instead. It goes without saying that I am fully on board with their #HeadsTogether charity campaign which has gained so much publicity from the race and associated media coverage. I’m not the biggest fan of the Royal family, but it is fantastic to see the younger generation put their platform to excellent use.


After snapping a quick victory selfie, I began the long stagger to get my kit bag which was unfortunately in the furthest away lorry – a good quarter mile or so down the Mall! I desperately wanted to sit down in the shade but I knew the sensible thing to do was to get my kit so that I could crash and then stay on the ground as long as I liked.

That turned out to be a good half hour – there was a muscle in my back which wouldn’t stop cramping and I felt very dizzy. I found a free patch of kerb next to a lorry and sat myself down and made myself eat and drink as much as I could stomach from the goody bag, whilst wrapped up in my foil blanket like a freshly baked potato. After a short while I managed to make it over to the reunion area where I met the previously mentioned Mary and her husband, Jo, who had come up from Reading to cheer me on, and then we all went to drink wine on the South Bank in the evening sunshine, and it was the perfect end to a pretty damn good day.


And with that – against all odds – London is finally done.

Some Final Thoughts

The London Marathon effect is weird. People get obsessed with doing it for a variety of reasons and I’ve certainly been guilty of that for long enough. Outside of the world of running, it’s one of the few races that most people know about and it gets very grating having to explain why you haven’t done it to people that don’t understand. They don’t understand that other marathons are the same distance as London and can be just as tough to run but London is toughest to get in to! Unless you’ve done London, the one race they can relate to, they don’t see you as a real marathon runner. It’s exhausting and boring to explain, especially justifying why running for charity in order to get a place is not really a viable option.

However the flip side of this is that when you DO run London, it’s the one day of the year where there is a huge interest in a sport which normally nobody cares about. Friends download the app and track you, they excitedly tell you that they are going to look for you on the television, colleagues ask how you got on. This is not normally what happens when you’re a long distance runner.

It’s both satisfying and frustrating; running is my hobby and my life. I graft away at it 365 days a year in one way or the other, and for 364 days of the year, nobody gives a shit. People glaze over when you tell them about your training runs, they call you crazy, they try and get you to stay out for ‘just one more’, they cannot get their head around the concept of running an ultramarathon or getting up with a hangover and doing a marathon as a training run for fun. It’s nice to have people care about my sport and be interested for once, but I’ve already done a marathon and two ultras this year so far and no-one outside of my silo of running friends really knows or cares… and I kind of like it that way.

So my final line on it is this – the London Marathon is amazing and every distance runner should try to do it once, if only to remember why they run and what it is that they like best about their sport. Is it the iconic British tradition, the television coverage, the social media circus, crowds screaming your name, tripping over someone taking a selfie, or broadcasting the experience on Facebook Live? Or is it the quiet local races, familiar faces, signing up on the day, pensioners with clipboards out in the rain, and weak orange squash at the finish? There is no right or wrong answer here; running is running and I am not here to pass judgement on anyone’s experiential preference.


London, you were incredible and I’m so glad I finally got to tread your streets and see you at your sporting best. For the first time in nearly a decade though, this year the 1st of May did not see me submit my name into your public ballot and I’m not sure when I will again. That’s the only thing that’s changed though…next April I’ll still be running; pounding the trails out there somewhere in the countryside, and quietly getting on with it on my own terms…

Do you prefer big races or small races?
Have you entered the 2018 London Marathon ballot?
What’s the stupidest costume you’ve ever seen in a race?

 

February Training Round Up

So here we are in March. In the past I’ve not made a habit of meticulously reviewing each month’s training; primarily due to reasoning that if I find it boring to write about, then you’ll find it even more boring to read about. However, after a spectacular January, there came a somewhat different February, so I’ve got more to write about than just a report on another month of targets being smashed. I’m also three weeks into my London Marathon coaching plan, which has really shaken up the way I train. Mileage is down, but so are my splits; a combination which is something I would have never expected to be saying this early in the year!

It’s been a funny month; in its inimitable fashion, life has thrown me some curve balls which have challenged my ability to train like the athlete I wish I was, but it is then that I remember that I’m not an athlete; this is not my job, and sometimes other aspects of life have to come first. I’ve just been doing my best to control what I can control and let the passing of time take care of the rest. Here are some thoughts on running from this past month.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

February started off with a stinking cold which saw me lose my voice and much of my aerobic capacity for a week. Thankfully by the time the Fetteresso Trail Marathon came around on the 12th, I was largely free of the plague. The Fetteresso Trail Marathon was a trial event, run by Stonehaven Running Club, with the aim of launching a fully licensed race next year. There were about 40 runners from various running clubs around the North East who gathered to take part, and the event took place on the trails in Fetteresso Forest, oddly enough.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

For the trail and ultra runners of Stonehaven Running Club, this is our back yard and we know it like the back of our hands. There are endless miles of trails in the forest and I’ve spent more wintery weekend mornings bashing through snow around up there than I care to remember. This Sunday morning was no different, and we were faced with quite a reasonable amount of snow underfoot which made conditions challenging at times. I had set myself a target of 4h 45m or quicker, as I wanted to get finished and back down the road to the pub to watch the rugby which started at 5 hours race time.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Happily, I had a really great day and sailed through the miles with no bother at all. I finished in 4h 46m and as 5th female which although somewhat of a vanity statistic (there were only 11 ladies), being near the top was a well earned reward. I put in a hard effort pushing up and down the relentless forest hills on the snow and felt satisfyingly gubbed afterwards. I ate an entire jam swiss roll straight out of the packet like a burrito to celebrate.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Speedwork – Intervals and Tempo Sessions

My coach, Shaun Dixon, has delivered me a training plan which is based on a loose goal of 3hr 45m at the London Marathon. He has me scheduled for 5 runs a week with extra conditioning sessions as well; I’d be lying if I said I’ve been able to complete every single session, but once we’ve figured out how to clone a second me to take over some of my current commitments, that shouldn’t be a problem.

At first, the pace brackets set for the intervals terrified me. If marathon pace is 8:35 per mile, then everything else is a lot faster! As a certified ultra plodder who also likes the fact that 10:00 per mile makes the running time mathematics really easy, seeing pace brackets that started with a seven was initially quite intimidating. However, I’ve found that whilst I might struggle to hit the correct pace during the first or second interval of a session, by the third and beyond I’ve found my groove and it comes a lot more easily than expected.

Holyrood Park

Notable sessions I’ve completed so far include: 7 x 3 minutes at 7:45m/m (first three) and 7:20m/m (last four), 3 x 9 minutes at 8:10m/m, and 3 x (5min / 3min / 1min) at 7:45/7:20/sub 7, with 90 seconds rest between intervals, and 45 seconds rest between sets. The last session mentioned there was called a ‘Blood Buffering’ session where the key factor is completing a 5 minute interval only 45 seconds after finishing a minute’s hard push; resulting in legs full of lactic acid and RedWineRunner being sick in a hedge.

I’m really enjoying the sessions though; it’s fun to have some structure to push myself to achieve and I feel like I’m really working hard in my lunchtime runs. Unfortunately, some days this has meant returning to my desk looking a bit I’ve been dragged through a hedge,  but as long as I’m not seeing any clients it’s fine…

worzel gummidge

Long Runs – Marathon Pace Runs

The big change to my training has been a dramatic cut in weekend mileage; in my first week of ‘coached’ training, the total training hours for the week were supposed to be 5 hours and 10 minutes. Normally at this time of year I would be going out and running for that amount of time and longer in one day, and then going out again the next day. It’s been hard to decide what to do, because whilst London is important to me and I have an incredible resource on hand in this coaching for the race…I also have a 33 mile race in 6 days time, a 50k race in 4 weeks, and a 55 miler three weeks after London.

I haven’t run for more than 5 hours since my day out on the West Highland Way at the end of January, and I can’t say that this doesn’t bother me somewhat. I need to be ready for 12 hours of moorland trails and hills on the 13th of May and being a Pavement Princess right now is not going to have me in the best of shape for that. However, if I was to get a smashing PB at London, perhaps that might make up for the death march that the Cateran 55 could potentially turn into…

IMG_0073

However, today’s ‘Long’ run was very positive, and makes me think that something pretty special for me might be attainable at the London Marathon. My run was technically supposed to be a 1hour 50m marathon-paced fartlek with two chunks of time at goal pace, but I got a bit excited and ran the whole damn thing at marathon pace and completed 12 miles at an average of 8:37m/m. It was just one of those days when both your legs and your head show up and the miles just fly by with zero effort. The difference is, that that was the fasted paced long run I have ever ran, ever. My half marathon PB is 1h 53m 58s (Fraserburgh 2014, hard effort, pishing rain and snow) and today I ran 12 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, and it didn’t even feel like an effort.

For me, that is pretty damn significant and I’m not sure I feel about it. I know I’ve been working hard on my speed sessions, but realistically – it’s been three weeks. I’ve not lost any more weight and realistically I’m still drinking far too much booze to be a good athlete. Could it be that I’ve been blocking speed from my legs for years by constantly being exhausted from running hundreds of slow miles a month? Did I need 2016 ‘off’ from hard training and racing to finally give my body a rest, in order to come back stronger than ever in 2017?

Who knows. I’m just going to keep slowly building the fire, and at just the right moment; I’ll light the match.

light-a-match

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