After managing to manipulate our holiday dates it became clear that I was going to be able to make the Toward for a Tenner Half Marathon in Dunoon this year having missed out last time around. Bookending the Orkney Marathon at the start of the summer holidays this would be the ideal end to the summer and I (in hindsight naively) thought a relatively easy run to see how the rested legs would hold up in advance of some longer races over the next two months. Having done little running for the previous four weeks an easy 9 miles around Budapest the previous Saturday reassured me that I still had a decent level of endurance off the back of my marathon training and was in reasonable nick.
Fast forward a week and it was great to see so many Dunoon Hill Runners behind the scenes welcoming hundreds (literally) of runners off the Argyll Ferry to race HQ in the newly refurbished Dunoon Pier. A gentle jog along the West Bay to the start line and I took my position tucked in among some familiar faces aiming for a sub 1:30. With a current pb of 1:32 I somehow convinced myself that if things went well a sub 1:30 could be on. The wind would definitely play a factor and sheltering in behind some tall and / or wide runners was the game plan overheard prior to the gun (or should I say pipes and cannon).
Setting off I hung off the back of a group of about 8 runners over the first 4k ticking over at 6min55sec miling. An ominous feeling of something not being quite right consumed me around this point and I started to drift from the pack running the next few miles largely on my own occasionally passed or passing another runner. Although my mile splits were slipping and conscious that the gap between me and the pack was growing I convinced myself that running 7-20s into the wind for a few miles would be ok as I’d come flying back towards Dunoon with the wind at my tail.
I maintained a reasonable pace as we passed through Innellan en route to Toward and the turning point via the Lighthouse but the effort was taking it out of me and the gap between me and the pack was growing more and more with each passing mile.
Ticking over I was pleasantly (and not jealously at all) surprised to see The Boy coming back at me on the other side of the road having completed the 1 mile loop around Toward before I even entered the loop. So 6 miles in and he’d already put a mile between us. The Boy had built up a good lead by this point of about 250 metres and managed to give me some encouraging words at a point where I was starting to feel uneasy on my feet.
The shade and protection afforded by the trees around the loop at Toward provided welcome relief from the strong head winds and uncomfortable temperature of the first half of the race. Turning for home I was aware that today wasn’t going to be a pb day and focused on getting to the 10 mile mark within 8 minute miling positive in the knowledge that I had built up a decent pace on the first half of the race and wouldn’t be too far of my season opener of 1:32.
Whether it was battling against the wind in the first half, the heat (didn’t imagine I’d ever say that about a race in Dunoon) or some undiagnosed tropical disease my legs turned to jelly around this point and it felt like I was carrying someone on my back. As I approached Innellan I was feeling light headed, getting gradually slower and contemplating chucking it. I allowed myself a short walk before breaking into a gentle jog. Around this point I was being regularly passed by more consistent and prepared runners.
Leaving Innellan I was delighted to get a couple of Haribo into me and meet up with Scott who’d had a wardrobe malfunction and who joined me for a couple of miles. Undoubtedly the company got me to the finish line on a difficult day. 500 metres from home I had to let Scott go as I slowed to a crawl along the promenade before mounting the last reserves to cross the line in a time of 1:43.
Overall not a great day at the office and the fact that my quads are still burning two days later serves as a reminder that four or five sessions in five weeks is wholly inadequate training for a half. Chalking it up to experience I now have some hard sessions planned before a possible outing at the trial Glasgow Marathon and The Wee Eck ultra (50k) over the next 8 weeks. One thing is for sure there will be no pb chasing on either. My previous season form was based on a solid base of winter training and I need to be back training consistently to complete both of these challenges.
Or maybe I just need some short shorts like The Boy?
Big shout out to all the marshals on the course for their great encouragement, to The Boy (I look forward to his take on the run) for a comprehensive victory in the Half and to Lisa for setting an impressive new PB in the 10k, a great result in tough conditions.
The Toward for a Tenner event is great value – chipped timing, a t-shirt and a medal. A good route in a town full of great people at an ideal time of the season for anyone working towards an Autumn Marathon. Double the number of runners compared to last year this event is sure to go from strength to strength and hopefully becomes an established event on the Scottish Racing Calendar. I look forward to coming back stronger and more prepared next year.
Splits below for anyone who can empathise with a run that just slipped away from them.