Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Tag: RunGarioch

RunGarioch Half Marathon 2013 – RACE REPORT

24th March 2013
RunGarioch Half Marathon

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Time: 1hr 56m 52s

(from my watch; the chip timing system was not used, for an unknown reason.)

After four straight days of howling gales and relentless snow, I had really, really hoped that the weather system threatening to ruin today’s race would have moved on. Predictably enough, when my alarm went off at 0630 this morning there was no change at all in the weather and the wind was still raging in off the North Sea.  Stonehaven bay looked like a washing machine and the gales were providing great challenge to any human who wished to remain standing vertical, let alone move forward. This was interspersed with blasts of icy hail and swirling snowflakes coming from every direction. Less than perfect conditions for running let alone racing, but the race wasn’t going to run itself so it was time to man up, layer up, and get on the bus to Inverurie.

I was car-sharing with Ronnie, Rachel and a couple of other runners leaving from Aberdeen so I hopped on the bus up. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Scotrail and Stagecoach for making life so difficult for those living outside of what passes for civilisation in Aberdeen – the first train on a Sunday isn’t until 1010, and the first direct bus isn’t until 0930. At 0740 I ended up on a slow-poke bus tour of every commuter town South of Aberdeen on a journey which took over an hour, all in the name of making my travel more GREEN and SUSTAINABLE. If the Council/Government/Men In Black are truly dedicated to getting more of us out of our cars and on to public transportation, then it needs to be made far more frequent and accessible. People need to get places on every day of the week – why is Sunday even considered anything other than a normal day for timetabling these days?

Anyway; I digress. So five runners piled into Ronnie’s Astra and made our way North towards the Garioch. Normally this would be a journey of jokes and hilarity but it was obvious the weather was weighing heavily on us and nobody was showing any outward enthusiasm at all.

I had decided that layers were the only way forward and dressed in the following: 2 pairs of running tights, Under Armour coldgear base layer, t-shirt, merino wool long sleeve, cotton long sleeve, and club vest with a soft shell windbreaker on top. Two buffs, two pairs of gloves, and a hardy grimace against the wind. I’m not usually one to make much of a fuss about the cold, after all I certainly don’t run well in the heat, but today was particularly vicious so I wasn’t taking any chances.

After arriving and parking at Morrison’s we made our way to the Sports Centre to get registered which for me was no problem. Unfortunately Rachel found herself victim of the first of a catalogue of errors experienced throughout the day and despite having paid for her entry months ago, was not on the start list. I’ll let Jon, sorry I mean Rachel, explain the rest of the situation HERE.

The Sports Hall was mobbed – there were several junior races happening and of course if Child A is running a race, Mum, Dad, Grunny and Granda, all four bairns and the babby in a buggy need to attend as well; so you can imagine the chaos that ensued. No-one wanted to be out in the Siberian weather any longer than they had to so the whole Sports Centre was a seething mass of humanity. It was around about then that we found out that there had been some kind of problem with the chip timing system as well so the race would not be officially timed. I think at this point we were all ready to pack it in and go home…

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Note the snow falling. This is late March. MARCH!

Thankfully 10:30am and the start of the Half Marathon came quickly and we were soon lined up outside. I became separated from the rest of the gang but it was OK as we had different goals – I just wanted it over as quickly as possible and was planning on running like I stole something, the others were going to be more sedate.

The gun went off and we headed off out into a housing estate. I recognised it from running the 10k two years ago although it was hard to see anything with the blizzard of hail firing into my face. I did not regret a single layer I was wearing. Heading out into the country and seeing the thick snow I couldn’t believe this was the end of March! After we got out of Inverurie it was quite scenic and I was enjoying my surroundings, but the road was very undulating and there were icy patches to look out for as well.

In terms of time, I knew I wanted to come in under 2 hours but I wasn’t aiming for anything in particular. I knew if I kept under 9 minute miles the frozen horror would be over as soon as possible without doing much damage, and I figured I would do my usual move of making slow progress up the hills and blasting down the other side to make up time.

8:19, 8:30, 8:57, 8:47, 9:18

On the rare occasions we were sheltered from the wind I became a little uncomfortably warm, but there was always a quick draft to freeze me up again. I ended up taking my gloves off which made regulating my temperature easy, but meant I had to carry them. There was supposed to be a water station at mile 4.5, but all there was was an empty table and a box of cups. I’m glad I wasn’t relying on that for refreshment… I took my usual gel at 5 miles and continued, albeit grumpily. “Run faster, woman; get this over with!!”

9:21, 9:24, 9:47, 8:25, 8:47

The middle miles got a bit hilly and my pace slowed to match, but it felt good to fly down the other sides where I was able to make up some places. Around mile 8 we seemed to turn a corner and all shelter just disappeared and the wind hit us full pelt – hours later my skin is still glowing from the assault. Much like last week at the D33 I just locked down my senses and powered on, I don’t really remember anything much after this other than thinking the course would be short, but in the end it was bang on 13.1 miles.

9:09, 9:14, 8:13.

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There were some hardy spectators awaiting their runner at the finish and I saw my friends Scott and Fiona who were waiting on Niall to finish his first half. I got my medal and t-shirt (or tent, really – they only had Large left after the 5 and 10k finished earlier. I’m sure Kynon will look great in it…) and grabbed a banana and some water and waited for the rest of the gang whilst catching up with Scott and Fiona. Rachel was next in, followed by Teri and then Ronnie a little later on in about 2:15 I think. Niall finished his first half in 2:25ish I think and was very pleased. Once everyone was in we got straight back to the car to warm up, but not before nipping into Morrison’s to demolish the Bakery aisle.

I was actually really pleased with my performance in this race. It’s another finish comfortably under 2 hours, but this time with a 33 mile race fresh in my legs. It’s a good sign that there is much more to come off my half marathon time – especially as the days HOPEFULLY get warmer soon. I’m beginning to realise that the next few months after the Fling is out of the way, are going to be all about pushing myself a bit further out of my comfort zone. What today and last week have taught me is that I’m perfectly capable of holding a somewhat uncomfortably fast pace for an extended period of time without too much bother, which means getting faster is well within my grasp. Training with the club will really help with this.

In the past I’ve always been quite pleased with the fact that I always negative split half marathons, but what this really means is that I’m starting my races off too slowly. I need to stop starting steadily and just shove myself off into the deep end and get a move on!

As for RunGarioch… it’s frustrating because I really want to love these races but the multiple things that went wrong make it really hard. The issue with the chip timing is huge – I pay money to enter a race because I want to be chip timed and have an official UKA recognised time for this distance. If I just wanted to go for a 13.1 mile run and check the time on my watch I wouldn’t be paying £22 for the privilege. Since I don’t now have an official time, I can’t use this race for our club standards (info here) which is disappointing as it would have qualified as part of a Bronze award.

There wasn’t enough water on the course two years ago and again the same problem cropped up with the missing water station at 4.5 miles (there was water at 7 and 10.5ish though). This isn’t a problem for me, but for many people it will have disrupted their race. If you promise something then the runners have a right to expect it! I’m irritated by the sizing of the t-shirt as well, because if they’d kept seperate t-shirts aside for each race then the half marathoners wouldn’t have been stuck with the giant ones after the 5k and 10k finished. Of course I’m sure there are a few gentlemen that will fit them perfectly, but for the rest of us they’re like dresses.

They might be little gurns, but when there’s multiple little gurns it really brings down the effectiveness of the whole event. They do a LOT at this event and I wonder if it needs to be spread out a bit – managing 100s of kids is a nightmare at the best of times, so why not do those races on the Saturday and keep the mess away from the 5k, 10k and Half events? The timing and entry system failure appears to be the work of Race Timing Systems again, who have featured in several local event problems including Baker Hughes 10k last year. That’s clearly out of the organisers hands, but it is becoming obvious the more races I do that the Race Timing System D-tags that they use are pretty temperamental and the company themselves are not reliable. I hope that there are other options out there as they are bringing down the reputations of decent, well organised races.

RunGarioch 10k – RACE REPORT

RunGarioch 10k – 20th March 2011, 12.00pm – Inverurie Sports Centre – Race completed in 56m 17s! Finished 277th out of 449, 66th Female, 173rd in my age group.


Quick summary – a great, friendly race on a challenging course. Good value, good swag and very well organised. Bad point – not enough water on course…

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So, Inverurie is a rapidly expanding commuter town about 11 miles away from Aberdeen. The race started at a rather civilised 12.10pm with registration at 11am, so we didn’t need to hit the awful A96 until 10.15am. It’s such a horrible road; everyone hates driving on it. Every other driver is an utter lunatic and people drive like it’s a game of Mario Kart. It’s also the main freight route North into the Highlands so you’ve got umpteen lorries battling for superiority on the road as well which makes every journey a treat…

I’m always a bit tetchy before a race and stomp off by myself until I know what’s going on.

We managed to find Ian and Donna quite quickly – it was a medium sized race, probably just under 1,000 people doing the 10k and the half marathon. I think Ian was a bit surprised to be caught on camera quite so early in the day.

We got our packets picked up and milled about in the hall for a while – there were some stalls including run4it (a local running shop) but I managed to resist spending any money. We also bumped into Jayne, who was doing Kettlebell demonstrations

Disclaimer – when I did my hair on Sunday morning I was not aware quite how much of a Croydon face lift I’d given myself with that ponytail!! Not such a good look!

After a while we decided to go out and warm up properly. I wanted to have a proper long jog to blow the cobwebs out of my legs and avoid the typical first mile feelings of “oh crap,  legs are stiff, knees are creaky, I’m going to have to stop, I can’t do this ARRRGH!!”.

It was very bright and sunny outside! There was a fresh breeze but we could feel the sun getting stronger.

Warmed up and about ready to roll. This was Ian and Donna’s first race so I was excited to be doing it with them. They’ve both been running lots recently and were aiming to come in at or near an hour.

As is got warmer I removed more and more layers. I was very pleased to have worn what I did – I got it just right. I was even smart enough to put on sunscreen – in the end it was 15C!!!

By now we were just desperate to get going, we were antsy for the race to start. The half Marathon set off about 10 minutes before ours, so there was a bit more hanging about to do.

The elite athletes at the start of the 10k.

What’s us finally off. Can you spot me…?

…and that was the last Badger saw of us for 7km!

I concentrated on keeping my pace steady for the first few miles as planned, the proper warm up really worked and I felt like I was ready to run from the get go, rather than working my way into it. I spotted a friend from Twitter about 1km in who had popped out of her house to wave and cheer and that was a great boost early on! I had also seen a friend from work who was running near me as well; the sun was shining, my tunes were blasting and I was feeling amazing. I didn’t need to concentrate on enjoying myself at all – I felt totally relaxed and was just enjoying every minute of it.

I had studied the course on Google Streetview and was prepared for an undualting course but I hadn’t realised quite how steep some of the gradients were. As we approached the half way mark I was getting hotter and hotter and desperate for a drink of water. I don’t normally get thirsty after just a couple of miles but I was beginning to really wish that there was going to be a water stop – but the course map hadn’t said there would be one. As we chugged on I could see people veering to one side in the distance and as I grew closer I couldn’t believe it – was it a mirage?! It was a car handing out water from the boot!! In retrospect I think it might have been a last minute decision to supply water due to the heat. The tables weren’t prepared and they were really struggling to keep up with demand – they were physically pouring cups of water from bottles as we took them from them. I only got about 2 inches in a cup but I was grateful for even this small amount.

I hit the 5k mark at about 24 minutes so at this point I was on well on course to hit my target of 52 minutes, however the more the hills continued the tougher it got and my little legs started to struggle to keep up the pace. I later learned that 7km of the 10km course was uphill!

Meanwhile, Badger was watching the elite runners shoot past. The race was won by last year’s winner Ben Hukins (who also won the 2010 Baker Hughes 10k) in something like 32 minutes.

Pure burn.

And some time later, the cavalry followed!

Looking pretty happy here, so I must be doing something right.

A few minutes later Donna and Ian passed by.

Notice Ian’s shoes – he’s wearing Vibram 5 finger shoes; designed to emulate bare foot running.

The last 3 kilometres were sneaky. After we passed where Badger was, we curled around a hill which was tough going, and then plunged right down again – at this point I thought we were on the finishing straight so started on my reserves, only to turn the corner and find another hill! Only after that hill was there the down hill finishing straight. At this point I was power walking up the hill to try and catch my breath to blast it down the other side. I felt a tap on my shoulder as a girl passed me saying “Come on keep going! We’re nearly there!” We’d been overtaking each other the whole race and I’m 99% sure that she ran the Balgownie XCountry as well and finished just before me – she’s number 215 in this picture – if I recognised her correctly, maybe she recognised me too. Either way it gave me a huge boost and we paced each other up the hill but she put the boosters on and sprinted away from me as we approached the finish. Whoever you are, thank you friendly girl in the pink top! People like you in races make people’s days!

Here’s my finish:

An apt picture, given that I sponsored myself in this race for Run For Japan.

And a lucky snap with the gun time as I crossed the line. My chip time was 56m 17s – 1m 30s over my personal best.

It was another wobbly finish – I was very glad to have some nice Boys Brigade volunteers cut my chip off and hustle me down the chute to collect my swag. There were plenty of people needing assistance over the line however – the medics were having a busy day.

T-shirt, medal, water and jelly beans. I was SO, SO HOT… I could bearly stand up my legs were so shaky!

Very happy. I wasn’t too bothered about not getting my goal time – it was a tough course and I gave it my best shot. Now it we just needed to see the Duggans home safe!

At this point a bundle of pink came up and hugged me – it was Joyce from work – she works in Education in the same building as me!

Ian and Donna crossed the finish line together, very hot but happy to be finished. They got roughly 65 minutes.

I don’t know how Donna coped in that black outfit!

It wasn’t too long before we were feeling human again and posing with big smiles. They really enjoyed their first race – Ian said his immediate feelings were to never sign up for another race again…but I know that feeling, and I know it lasts approximately half an hour and then you’re gagging to do another one 🙂

Shortly after this we headed off to go and find some well earned food and a beer and disect the race in detail. We were all caught out by the hills and the heat – especially after a long hard winter of training in the snow and wind and rain. We were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves until we heard that tragically, a runner had collapsed and lost his life. He was minutes from the finish line, and suffered a heart attack and died. He was only 34 years of age. They haven’t released much more detail, but what a terribly sad thing to happen to a young person. Deaths at half marathons and full marathons are not uncommon however – you’re putting yourself under a huge amount of pressure to do an endurance event which completely wrecks the body. I think in the quest for personal glory, collecting another medal, attaining another PR; we forget that endurance running is actually a high risk sport and that’s why we have to train so carefully. On the path to becoming a runner it’s so important to learn how to listen to your body as well as learning how to run. Unfortunately it’s never just as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. My thoughts are with his family and friends in this difficult time.

Look after one another friends, and enjoy each day to its fullest.

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