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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 🙂

 

 

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2012 – RACE REPORT

Stonehaven Half Marathon
1st July 2012

1hr 59 mins 14 secs – NEW PB!
Overall – 199th/267
Category – 26th/46
Gender – 35th/75

I’ve done it! I have finally cracked the two hour mark at the Half Marathon! And on the notorious hills of the Stonehaven Half Marathon no less. What a great way to celebrate the anniversary of completing my first half – by knocking 16 minutes off my previous time and finally ducking under two hours.

I have to preface this report by admitting that I ran this race like a lunatic. I do not want to hear about anyone taking hints or tips from this race strategy as it’s risky and you will pay dearly in DOMS in the days to follow! The best lesson I’ve learned in running to date from one of the best runners I know to date is; “Don’t be a d*ck”, and I’ll freely admit that I race this race like a d*ck. It paid off though, so what can I say…I guess sometimes it pays to throw caution to the wind. Now, on with the report…

The best thing about this race for me this year, is that my boyfriend lives half a mile from the starting area, so I got a lovely lie in on race morning. I got up at a very civilised 9am and ate a muller rice and a banana with some coffee and electrolyte drink. Pre-race dinner had been as usual, Pizza (topped with mushroom, pineapple, onion and jalapenos), and I didn’t feel the need to eat much more.

We headed down to registration around 10:15am and were greeted by a smiley and cheerful Vicki who was fully recovered from the West Highland Way Race but on registration and medal duty for Stonehaven Running Club, who organise the race. It is such a friendly race that it’s impossible not to feel welcomed despite the small size and relatively high number of local elite machines on the starting line. The talk on everyone’s lips was the hills and how we were going to deal with them; I made no secret of the fact that I wasn’t going to be a hero and would be walking whenever I felt the need, some were going for a slow but steady strategy, others were just hoping to cling on to dear life! In case you need a reminder of why this race is considered one of the toughest halfs in Scotland, here’s the course profile:

I was very proud of Kynon for stepping up to the challenge of making his first half marathon his local race, despite its notorious difficulty. He seemed to be taking very much the attitude I had the year previous – that he may as well jump straight in at the deep end and then it will only get easier!

There were lots of other familiar faces; a reasonable Fetch crowd and many local runners that I know. Just after 11am everyone began making their way to the starting area and just as last year we were lined up along a single track road next to Mineralwell Park.

A short, completely unintelligible race briefing ensued (get a megaphone!), and the klaxon went. Half Marathon #7 was go!

My goals for this race were as follows:
a) Beat Kynon
b) Get a PB (previous PB was 2:01:50 set in April at Rock n Roll Edinburgh)
c) Run super hard and leave nothing on the course
d) Beat Kynon

I’m not usually so competitive, but I love the Half Marathon; it’s my favourite road event, and I was not going to let my boyfriend hit the finish line of his first half before me. No way, not a chance, not happening. Not even on this tough Mother of a course. We’ve ran a few races together now, both sticking together and running separately, but for this race it was on ’til the break of dawn. Operation smack down. May the fastest pair of legs win.

Kynon’s training had gone well but he had picked up a calf strain a couple of weeks ago at Parkrun. He was worried and stressed about the new challenge (his longest run had been 10 miles) but I had a sneaking suspicion that he was going to do just fine, and therefore presented a genuine threat. I also suspected that he was/is a good contender for being a typical male beginner runner – start running with a female friend, enjoy it, get good at it, then one day wake up and run a race twice as fast as her all of a sudden. This is a genuine runnergirl problem experienced most recently by both myself and Rachel with our male friends. Kynon has a solid athletic base from years and years of rugby, football and volleyball training and I think it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through the ceiling and busts out some incredible times, leaving me in his dust.

Back to the race. Almost immediately after crossing the timing mats you’re on an incline which does not end until 4 miles in to the race. I took the breathtakingly steep Belmont Brae climb slowly and relaxed as many people passed me. I knew I’d run them down later in the race – the key to this course is to start slow. If you think you might be going too fast then you probably are! As we left Stonehaven I saw Kynon in the crowd passing me on the other side of the road; this didn’t bother me though as I knew I’d catch him soon enough; before I knew it he was off and out of sight.

mile 1 – 9:21
mile 2 – 9:04

mile 3 – 9:56
mile 4 – 11:25 gave in to the hill and walked a bit

At the top of the hill there was the piper, although as I passed him he was having a breather. Not very motivational pal, the runners don’t get a break at this point so HTFU and keep going! We need you!

Picture from Stonehaven Half Marathon website

I had scheduled 40 minutes of chilled out music for the first 4 miles and then my playlist would pick up in tempo alongside my pace, as miles 5 and 6 were downhill. I was ready to take back Kynon’s lead! It felt so good to use a different set of muscles as I let my legs wheel down the hill, passing everyone in sight. This was my first somewhat d*ckish move of the day – I’m sure everyone I passed must have thought what an idiot I was to be blasting away in the first half, but I didn’t care as I was running my own ridiculous race chasing my boyfriend who was annoyingly still out of sight. I kept on seeing someone that looked like him but then they kept disappearing around corners so I wasn’t sure how far away he was. I caught up with Rachel at about half way and pulled up alongside her for a second to blurt out “I’ve got to catch Kynon! I can almost see him!!!” before passing her and barreling away  down the hill.

mile 5 – 8:06
mile 6 – 8:10

Half way saw us pass the Fetchpoint – a mobile unit of all-star cheerleaders equipped with water guns, jelly babies and ‘the eye of the tiger’ on repeat. “How far ahead is he?!” I gulped as I passed, “Not far…! I heard them calling after me…

Photo - Annie Reid

Photo – Annie Reid

 

Mile 7 is another mile completely uphill so I took a couple of walking breaks here and was passed by some of the people who I had passed on the downhill. I knew this would happen but it still irked me – I know what runs smugly through my mind when I pass people who have previously overtaken me and are walking; but everything was going to plan so far for my idiotic race so I was happy. Mile 8 is a plateau of sorts and it was here when I finally saw Kynon up ahead and was was able to gradually reel him in. He was definitely running slower than I was so my prediction of me being able to maintain a stronger pace for longer than him had come true. I stuck on his heels for a little while to catch my breath so I could pass him strongly, I thought about what if anything to say but my mind was beginning to disintegrate beyond congitive thought so I just stroked his shoulder as I went by.

mile 7 – 10:09
mile 8 – 9:10

Now that the ‘main goal’ had been achieved I needed to keep my head in the game and keep running hard. I knew for the most part it was downhill to the finish but my legs were tiring and my quads were aching so it wouldn’t be that easy. I had my garmin set to show my average pace rather than total time so I had no idea if I was on for a PB or not. I decided to do what I did at Edinburgh in April and Fraserburgh in November, and hold off looking at my time until mile 12 whilst running as hard as I could, and then see where I was at. I think this method works for me – if I don’t know how much time I’ve taken I’m encouraged to keep going harder, if I already know I’ve lost a chance at a PB then I’m prone to just quit at pace-pushing. My race-weary mind starts thinking ‘why bother with this pain – it’s all for nothing’, if I don’t know what’s happening I can keep convincing myself I have a chance at glory. I had loosely entertained a sub-2 time before the race as Vicki swore it was possible due to the downhill elements of the course making up for the inclines and more. I wasn’t totally convinced but I knew I could give it a good try as long as I kept the pressure on my pace.

There was a small hill which I walked up where Kynon passed me again, I promptly leapfrogged him when we were going down the other side and increased the gap between us for good. I am better at running downhill than Kynon so this was my time to shine, even though my legs were hurting and I was beginning to feel sick I wouldn’t let myself give up. I kept telling myself that he was hot on my heels and the possibility was always there that he could beat me! I never looked back once though.

mile 9 – 8:01
mile 10 – 9:04
mile 11 – 9:54

At mile 11.5 there was the final water stop which I walked through and a little bit beyond until I was up the incline of the bridge over the dual carriageway back into Stonehaven. I wanted to catch my breath before the final vomit-threshold push I was planning for the finish. Annoyingly the race photographer caught me walking!! I look so cross, but I really wasn’t.

Photo – Tom Hannan

As planned I looked at my watch at mile 12 and it said 1:50something! I was so elated and shouted “YAS! SUB TWO!!” to no-one in particular. I was ready to properly horse it to the finish line and picked up my pace for a few seconds before checking how fast I was actually going at the time – low 8:XX pace so no real need to break myself at this point. Unless I tripped over, sub-2 was well in the bag so there was no glory sprint required until the finishline was actually in sight.

It’s just as well I caught myself as I was beginning to feel very nauseated and was also needing the toilet quite badly. Mike popped up suddenly on my right and took a picture – I’m very surprised I look so capable in it as I felt like a burst sofa at this point. I was very ready to be done for the day!

Then it was back down the perilliously steep Belmont Brae, around a hairpin bend and back on the track towards the finish in the field. I dared not to look at my watch as I gave it the last bit of juice I possibly had to push hard across the field. I heard the announcer call my name and straight ahead of me across the finish was Vicki jumping up and down screaming and clapping, with finishers’ medals jangling around her arms!

mile 12 – 8:48
mile 13 – 7:58Adam took some pictures…

Photo – Iain Shanks

I lurched around a bit on my feet as I struggled to catch my breath and not vomit all over Vicki as she hugged me and put my medal around my neck. Dave and George were there at the finish to offer congratulations as well and my friends Claire and Adam were leaning on the barriers cheering as well which was great to see. I found a seat and concentrated on keeping all bodily fluids inside myself for a few minutes – it was touch and go for a while!

Photo – Iain Shanks

I eagerly awaited Kynon’s arrival, I knew he wouldn’t be long but was a bit worried in case he might be hurting. He came into the field limping a bit but put on a good finishing sprint and crossed the line strongly in 2:01:44 – an amazing time for a first half, especially on this course!

pictures by Adam Westwell

Somewhere around mile 8 his calf injury had started really hurting as well as his hip flexors. I was so proud of him, he’d done so well.

pictures by Adam Westwell

All in all it was a pretty good day at the office for both of us. I’m very pleased to have knocked another goal off my 2012 list and on the most unexpected of courses as well, yet again without specific training. This means of course that there is more time to come off for me, but the next attempts at this distance will be at Aviemore in October and Fraserburgh again in November.

Kynon will, I’m sure, continue to get faster; but for now he will spend the rest of the summer and autumn training and playing rugby so I’ve got plenty of time to get myself a pair of even speedier legs to keep myself ahead of him.

The next 8 weeks for me will be all about the Moray Marathon which is on the 2nd of September. It’s time to embrace high mileage and ‘hell month’! July will be my highest monthly mileage ever – 198 miles – but I think I’ll find a way to tack on another two to round it up to a nice 200.

 

 

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2011 – Race Report

 Stonehaven Half Marathon 2011

DSC_0066

2hrs 15mins 30secs

And with that, another obstacle was conquered.

It’s hard to believe that 7 months ago, when I first started this blog, a half marathon seemed like the biggest thing I could possibly achieve. It seemed like an almost impossible distance; I assumed it was something that I could work towards over a period of time and I’d scrape by come race day. I suppose one of the biggest things I’ve learned since then is that when it comes to running, the word impossible is bunk; it is no longer in my vocabulary when I talk about running. Even saying such a long word takes up too much time – stop making excuses and get running. Somewhere, someone who is busier/lazier/fatter/thinner/faster/slower than you is out running right this second. Nothing is impossible and limits no longer actually exist.

So yesterday I conquered my ‘impossible’ – I put to bed the demons which had taunted me ever since I DNS’d the Great North Run in 2006 and I finally raced and finished a half marathon. I just didn’t scrape by; I’ve covered the distance several times before and knew exactly how to pace myself to kick as much ass as possible. What I didn’t count on was having food poisoning the night before, puking four times and losing all my carb loading and hydration to some dodgy leftover aubergine I’d added to my pasta. I didn’t count on having to get up extra early to eat more food to try and give my body as much fuel as I could. I didn’t count on it being as hot as it was – the mercury tipped 23C in Stonehaven on Sunday, and the race was ran in blazing sunshine without a cloud in the sky. I didn’t count on puking again after 5 miles. I also didn’t count on finding out exactly how tough I am, and that alone makes up for my lacklustre time. At 2 hours 15 minutes it was fifteen minutes longer than I would have liked, but I know I fought as hard as I possibly could for every one of those minutes and I was at my physical limit for the duration of the race. I may not have been at my strongest, I may not have ran my fastest, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t try my hardest.

————–

When I went to my bed on Saturday night I was exhausted from dry-heaving the last of my stomach contents down the toilet, and my brain was in turmoil. I felt 100% better from getting rid of the dodgy food but I was freaking out – this was the absolute worst thing that could happen the night before a race, especially a distance race, and particularly since it was my first attempt at this distance. I was in unfamiliar territory before I even got to the starting line and I was relying on having everything under control. Having this control taken away from me by my body’s rejection of my carefully planned fuel caused me to panic and start to doubt myself and my abilities. Colin was out so I was rattling around the house by myself desperately just needing a hug and to be told everything was going to be ok. Not the most auspicious start to a race I’ve ever had, but somehow I got some decent sleep.

Mike was picking me up at 9:00am, so I awoke at 06:30am to eat and try and get as much sensible food in me and digested as possible before the race started at 11.15am. I had weetabix with dried fruit, peanut butter on toast, marmite on toast and lemon curd yogurt, washed down with powerade and water. I also took a clif bar to eat an hour before the start and packed my race belt with fuel to try and get me to the end of 13.1miles in one piece.

DSC01610

It was the most gorgeous day outside – perfect blue skies unblemished by clouds and a scorching summer sun. So the basically worst weather possible for running a road race in… The drive down to Stonehaven was beautiful, the sun sparkling off the navy sea like glistening sapphires and everything seemed so green. Colours were oversaturated in the sunlight – we don’t get a lot of days like that up here and the North East coast never fails to dazzle me with its beauty on the few days each year that we do.

We talked about our goals for the race; Mike was aiming for a very precise time of 1hr 31m or less, which would be 65% WAVA and help him on his way to getting the gold standard in Stonehaven Running Club this year. I told him about my food woes and that I would be happy with anything between 2hrs and 2hr15mi due to the weather and the digestional situation.

We made good time down, got a decent parking spot and headed over to Mineralwell Park to register.

DSC01614

Since it was Stonehaven Running Club that organises this race I knew a few people at registration whom I had first met at the WHW race – it was good to see Vicky, Iain and George again, and I also got to meet a few people from Fetch as well. There was a fair bit of hanging around to be done since we were there quite early; I spent this mainly trying to put as much liquid into myself as possible, whilst emptying my bladder as much as possible.

DSC01612

I was really rather nervous which was a shame since I love racing and the atmosphere on race mornings, but I just couldn’t relax. At the back of my head doubt was starting to spread – Is this actually a good idea to do? Am I being really stupid tackling this new distance when I’m not 100%? In this weather? Either way I knew there was little to be done – I was there and the race wasn’t going to run itself. 11.15am came and it was time to harden the F up and get running.

In the end I think there was about 270 runners started and we were walked to the start which was on a road adjacent to the park lined with spectators.

DSC01617

Apparently there was a race briefing, but I didn’t hear it and before I knew it there was the sound of an air horn and momentarily the sea of bodies in front of me shifted forwards. A surge of nausea echoed through me as I realised there was no going back and that for the next 2 hours it would just be me and the road.

A note about the course itself now, before I continue with this report. It is considered by some to be the toughest half marathon in Scotland, others consider it to be in the top three behind Heaven and Hell and Cape Wrath. It is a hilly, hilly race with the first 4 miles being constant incline. When I told people this was to be my first half I was told over and over again that if I could do this race, I could do any half with no bother. They also laughed – a lot. Here’s the course profile:

03-07-2011, Elevation - Distance

You basically go from sea level to 500ft and back again. So knowing that, alongside the puking, the heat and the general anxiety will perhaps excuse me for being less than my usual positive self.

In the first few miles I panicked, majorly. Once you’re out of the starting road, the climb is swift, immediate and brutal. I concentrated hard on maintaining a steady 10:00mi pace as I climbed but the hordes of people passing me skewed my perception of speed – why the hell were they all going so fast? How are they going to keep this up? What’s going on?! Am I going to be left behind?! I had strong, brutal words with myself to keep myself on track – this is YOUR race not anyone else’s, you will run at YOUR pace not theirs, stop panicking, man the F up and get your head down and run. Take each mile at at time and tick them off as you go. You’ve got this…

Smiling families cheered us on sitting in their front gardens as we climbed up through the streets, oblivious to the stream of blue words I was muttering under my breath. The sun was pounding on my back and the heat radiated up from the hot tarmac beneath me, with each breathless step I pulled more hot air into my lungs as sweat began to soak my top and shorts. Just over a mile in and I could tell this was going to be the toughest physical thing I’d put myself through in my life.

There was a water station at Mile 2, which shone like a beacon in the distance. As it came closer and more into focus I couldn’t see anything on the tables… was this a mirage? Was I already hallucinating?! Approaching it I could see the guys manning it handing out the remaining bottles from an armful each; three, two, one, none. The lady in front of me got the last bottle… However this is why runners are great; she was running with a friend and the friend already had a bottle – she turned and handed it back to me saying they would share.

I took a few sips and squirted my back and chugged on, realising I’d be very silly to discard the bottle of water it at this point, despite despising running with things in my hands. I decided that since they had run out of water, I was clearly very close to the back end of the race and it was my fault for being slow, not the fault of the organisers for not having as much stock as would perhaps be necessary on such a hot day! Despite my heat addled brain deciding that I was last (I wasn’t, by a long stretch), I was trying to keep my spirits up – at least if I was last I’d get a huge cheer and it would make a good blog post about persevering through bad times…I distracted myself from the utter agony of the heat and my increasingly grumbling stomach by thinking up things to write in here for the next few entries. I’ve forgotten them all, naturally.

I was listening to Leftfield’s iconic album ‘Leftism’ – picked originally as it starts off very sedately and it would stop me going out too fast. Not that in the end there was any risk of that happening of course! I realised soon into the race that if I was going to succeed in finishing I was going to have to listen to my body not my watch and forget any ideas of pacing that I thought I had before the start.

Deep into the climb at mile 3ish I spotted a familiar looking marshal up ahead; it was Dave! I was glad to see a smiling face, nay, glad to see anyone else. We were deep in the beautiful countryside by now and the field was so spread out that it really was just me and the road; the next runners were about 100m ahead of me and I was too scared to look behind me in case it was just the sweepers behind me. Dave called something out to me and I smiled and rolled my eyes saying “this is grim stuff!” or something to that effect and continued plodding. I was too scared to even look at my watch to see my pace – at least I wasn’t walking.

There were some children up ahead with dishes of jelly sweets/jelly beans/jelly babies and balloons (I think?!) jumping around cheering – I took a handful of jelly beans and started chewing; I tried to swallow but it just wasn’t going to happen. I’ve read race re-caps where runners have written about not being able to force food down and I now understand the feeling. Instead I chewed for as long as possible with sips of water before spitting the blob of masticated sugar to the side of the road, hoping to have absorbed some vital sugar to boost me.

The top of the first hill was reached at mile 4 and a lone piper signalled our successful ascent to the highest point of the course. It felt soooo good to finally let my legs go a little and stop pushing uphill for the first time in 40 minutes. This sudden relaxation caused a surge of nausea to sweep over me and before I knew it I was vomiting sugary water as I went down the hill. Excellent – another achievement unlocked: puking during a race. At this point I was just glad that the gut failure had headed north, not south.

There was a second water stop at Mile 5 manned by the Stonehaven Rotary Club, thankfully fully stocked with bottles of water and distributed by their cheery members. I had planned to take a gel at mile 5 so set about the task of getting it open – sadly I was a bit enthusiastic and it ended up squirting it over my face and into my hair a la Something About Mary. I rammed the fluid down my throat and washed it down with water, hoping that it would stay where it belonged.

The next few miles all kind of blur together and can be summed up in brief – hot, ow, sweat, groan, doom. I don’t know which point on the course it was, but I had my first experience of a Fetchpoint. I’ll leave the Fetch dictionary to define this one – “Initiated and kindled by the FE supporters group at mile 22 of the London Marathon, especially Max71, Stumpy and John66, and now spreading the globe, what better way to feel inspired to run, than a luminous mass of screaming groupies offering a variety of food, drink, massage, and other extras. Described as the running equivalent of an orgasm.”

Fetch is a British running website – a bit like facebook for runners. You can talk about just about anything in the forums, log training and track progress, look up training plans and tips, and the members are it’s shining ambassadors. Distinctive by their red and luminous yellow tshirts/vests at races across the country, if you do a race in the UK you’re guaranteed to find a ‘Fetchie’ there, either running or supporting. In some of the bigger UK marathons and halfs, if there is a big local Fetch presence they get together and form a ‘Fetchpoint’ to motivate everyone as well as they can with every resource they can get their hands on. I was greeted by the Eye Of The Tiger blaring from car stereos, super soakers filled with cold water and more jelly beans. What a lift! I had been running by what felt like just myself for so long it was so lovely so see so many happy smiling faces cheering me on.

At Mile 8 I really got a sense that I was going to be ok and that I was going to make it just fine. As I’ve said before – the more I run, the more I’m discovering when my tipping points are, and I now know that 8 miles is usually when my legs are ready to start getting serious. It also helped that the course turned back towards the sea and there was a great view down to Stonehaven, glistening in the distance 5 miles away. 5 miles? Pfft! Easy! Let’s go!

I started picking people off one by one – I spotted them in the distance and pushed it a bit until I over took them. One by one I reeled them in; my steps shortened, my pace quickened and soon I was running sub-9:00 miles. There was a little hill at Mile 10 which I walked up to catch my breath a little, but other than that I felt like I was flying. Open Up by Leftfield was repeated several times before my playlist shifted from the sublime to the obscene with Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson featuring heavily.

The course followed the road back in to town and soon enough there were people out cheering in their back gardens again as I got tantalisingly closer to the finish. The sea got bigger and bigger as I ticked off the last couple of miles. I had my sprint finish all planned – no matter how much I had suffered on the course I was going to cross that line like a BOSS. The last part of mile 12 wound down the steep road which we had climbed over two hours earlier and was hard to get any speed up on. I had to be especially careful going around the steep turns as my legs were shot – they could basically go one direction only which was in a straight line.

Finally, we were running down the road where we started. There were a small group of people ahead of me…they are all mine, I thought. I looked ahead as the course curved back into the park, threw my water bottle to the side and dropped the bomb. Attack! Attack! Attack! I whooshed around the group of runners on the outside of the bend and pumped my arms and legs as fast as I possibly could.

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One of the girls surged when I passed her but I pushed harder and in the end I outsprinted her and crossed finish line 6 places further up the field than I had been at 13 miles.

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Vicky was the first person I saw when I crossed the line and she put my medal around my neck as I stumbled over the line Smile

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I was so close to throwing up here; the only thing which stopped me was the amount of people around me – apparently I still do have a shred of public decency, who knew?!

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I spotted a chair and decided to head for it.

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George came up behind me and said something but I have no idea what it was! I sat myself down and a lady cut my chip off and another handed me a cup of water. I looked up, and there was Colin! He had got the bus down in time for the finish – I was so glad to see him, I had a niggle in the back of my mind that he’d miss the bus or get lost and miss me coming in at the finish. I needn’t have worried though, he was there of course, and he brought Neil too!

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They got a good spot at the finish line in the sun.

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I’ve looked and felt better, but it eventually sunk in. 2 hours 15 minutes and 30 seconds later, I had finished a half marathon.

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Mike got a new personal best – 1hr 32minutes and 42 seconds.

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But sadly, it wasn’t quite what he needed. A new personal best, but no gold standard Sad smile The heat was a killer for us all.

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Here’s a bonus picture – I don’t quite know where to fit this in to this post; but how awesome is this dog?! Is it a polar bear? Is is a dog? I want to hug it! It’s gorgeous!

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Polar Dog!

After I had caught my breath and regained most of my composure, I got a couple of ice packs for my knees and got changed out of my sweaty clothes. I kept my medal on though Smile We all went down to the Marine for a good feed and some ales and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the harbour wall soaking up the evening sun before heading back up to Aberdeen.

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So I’ve got another medal to add to my collection. It might be the smallest, but it represents the most.

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I’ve almost got enough to fill a medal hanger! A couple more and I might need to invest in something nice from Allied Steel

I feel happy I completed the race and the distance in a respectable time. I feel a bit…underwhelmed though. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve ran the distance and more before so I wasn’t accomplishing anything new in terms of length ran? Because I feel I could have done better? I feel like I should be pleased and proud given the circumstances, but I feel a bit robbed of my full potential for my first half.

Oh well – races end, running doesn’t. I’ll have another shot in two weeks time at the Dundee Half Marathon to do better. It’s a flattish course, as long as I suffer no ill effects from this race I’ll have it in the bag.

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