London Marathon 2018 – A race like no other!

What a crazy week it has been! As I stood nervously on the start line of the London Marathon, eyes gazing beyond the bouncing shoulders of the elites ahead of me and down the welcoming slope of Shooters Hill, I had a plan in my head of how I would like the race to pan out: I knew what pace I would be aiming to settle into once the Queen had signalled the start of the race; I knew that every fifth mile I would be squeezing a slightly warmed, but very welcome, carb gel down my throat and I knew that various groups of family and friends would be poised at a number of well thought out stations along the route, ready to yell messages of support (or friendly abuse) as required. I hadn’t, however, put much thought into what might happen after the race. I am sure that if I had, I would not have imagined that I’d be standing 24 hours later with a BBC Camera perched at the back of my classroom and with an e-mail flashing at me from my computer asking me to phone the local newspaper back ASAP. This was not necessarily going to be the race that I had planned, but it was certainly one which I will never forget.

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Training had been fantastic. Since crossing the finish line in Berlin seven months earlier, London had been the focus. I had put in the hours in training through a tough cross-country season, gruelling solo runs along the Clyde Walkway and even ploughing through snow courtesy of the ‘Beast from the East’. Smashing several of my PBs along the way, this was one of the most consistent training blocks that I have ever managed. The goal had always been to break 2:30:0 and I was feeling confident that this was definitely on the cards…

Then I thought about the weather. As my taper drew to a close and the carb-loading commenced, I began to think about possible race-day conditions. Most forecasts were indicating that this was going to be a warm one and to be honest my initial thoughts were relief that it wouldn’t be as cold as the training that I had suffered through in our typical Scottish Winter. It was when I started hearing whisperings of ‘the hottest London Marathon ever’ that I was forced to take things a little more seriously. At Berlin, on a cool, wet September morning, I had not consumed any water for the duration of the marathon. I knew however that in a hot London race, this would not be a sensible tactic.

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I lined up on the start line with a bottle filled with ice having taken on the advice I heard on Marathon Talk about ‘pre-cooling’. I had spent the previous hour sitting in the shade with the iced placed periodically across my shoulders and the back of my neck in order to lower my core temperature. I ditched the ice and found myself squashed in amongst the other excited athletes in the Championship Start. Having had difficulties with congestion in the past, I managed to make my way to the front and found myself tucked in just a few rows behind the pros. Seeing the likes of Kipchoge just ahead of me was phenomenal and it is moments like that which make running in a big city marathon that little bit special. Before I had a chance to get too star struck, the Queen appeared on the screen to press her button and start the race.

We were off!

People talk about the fast start at London but nothing quite prepares you for it. The long slope of Shooters Hill falls away before you and it can be very difficult to stick to a planned pace. I went through the first 5km in 17:16 – a little quicker than intended. I managed to hold myself back a little over the next 5km and settled into a pace that I felt I could sustain. Just before the half way mark I passed over Tower Bridge and felt a huge rush as the crowds roar filled the road – there is nothing quite like this moment and it never fails to take my breath away. I had found that my comfort levels were fluctuating through the first half – I had moments where I felt fantastic and others where I felt lethargic. This seemed to be a turning point however and the next 5 miles were great. I started to really enjoy the run and found I could work the crowd a little for an extra boost.

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Then I reached mile 18. This is where I first experienced the sensation that everyone who has run a marathon will know well. This was the moment that I realised I was slowing down. It is a strange feeling. I didn’t feel particularly ‘tired’, I simply realised that I was putting in the same amount of effort and yet not travelling at quite the same pace. This is where marathons are made or broken. It is a fine line that needs to be walked (or jogged!) when you still have 8 miles to complete of the race. A voice in your head is telling you to slow down to ensure that you reach the finish (this was accompanied by images of the incredible Callum Hawkins collapsing in the final stages of his marathon only weeks earlier) and yet a voice in your heart is whispering that you just need to grit your teeth and see how deep the well goes.

I saw the pace drop a little but reasoned I was still on target for my goal and that I could afford to be a little careful for a few miles. As I reached mile 22 however I realised that things were slowing more than I could afford and that the initial target was falling out of reach. I battled on in the heat and felt positive as I continued to pass other runners who were also struggling in the midday sun. I was forced to accept that the 2:30 target was not going to happen today but realised that a PB was still on the cards. I knuckled down, focused on the positive and fought my way onto the Mall.

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Crossing the line in 2:31:04, I felt a strange cocktail of emotions. As relief at finishing and the pride of having a medal draped over my shoulders mixed in with the tinge of disappointment at not hitting my target I felt strangely conflicted. This was a PB (my previous being 2:31:31) but it wasn’t the PB I wanted – I was still a 2:31 marathoner, no one really cares about the seconds! It was moments later however that I felt my first taste of overwhelming satisfaction (and slight incredulity!) as I glanced at my phone to see a message from a friend declaring me the 33rd finisher. Thirty-third?!? I thought this must be a mistake but soon had it confirmed and I was ecstatic – I had not even considered my position in the race as I had been too busy thinking about my time.

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I enjoyed a very quick celebration with my fellow runners, my brother, friends who had travelled down to watch and, of course, my wife Vicki before we needed to rush away for our flight back to Glasgow! A quick shower, a few slices of pizza in a plastic bag for the journey (thanks to my awesome sister-in-law Laura!) and a short train journey took Vicki and I to Stanstead for the final leg of our journey. A short delay to our flight meant that we were back in our flat just after 11pm and finally my head hit the pillow for a few hours kip before work on Monday morning and I enjoyed dreams of a nice, quiet day in the classroom…

“Jack, you’re needed in the headmaster’s office now – apparently it is urgent!”

My colleague had just burst in during my second period of the day with no idea what I was wanted for – but it sounded important! I was a little scared (and more than a little confused) as I entered his office but was greeted with a handshake and invited to take a seat.

“The BBC are on the phone. They want to come in for an interview – and they want to film you teaching your S3 class”

Despite my fear that I would make a fool of myself on camera, and after a stern/desperate chat with my pupils, things actually worked out OK and the footage on Reporting Scotland didn’t make me look like a complete idiot! I was overwhelmed with the messages of congratulations that I received after this and I even got a free Greggs in the morning from the staff who had seen my interview! What a bonus!

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The week since has been fantastic. I may not have achieved the initial target but I am incredibly proud of the result. I am now left planning for the future – I know that I have more to offer in the marathon, but for now it is time to reflect and recover. In the meantime I need to thank a few people who helped in the long road to London:

  • Bellahouston Harriers – for providing a huge level of support to all of us who were running.
  • Matt – who put up with almost daily questions and who provided an unparalleled level of advice and guidance throughout the training block.
  • The Locker Room – for that extra touch of motivation when needed.

And most importantly to Vicki who put up with months of my obsession, anxiety, bragging and distraction, all the while struggling with her own injury. I couldn’t have done it without her support.

Bring on the next one…

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Three Lochs Way – Jacqueline Glass

An absolutely mind-blowing, epic challenge. Not much more needs to be said.

 

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Running an Ultra and Having a Blast – As You Do

 

Having run one ultra before it’s definitely for the hard core and there are none more so than Jacqueline Glass and June Macleod who undertook the Three Lochs Way last month with good friend Karen Hattie. The camaraderie amongst ultra runners is the stuff of legend and this comes across in Jacqueline’s review.

 

Ultra Running is undergoing a boom at the moment. As a result more and more events are springing up with several multi-stage events extending the parameters beyond even single run events. Many well established races like The Fling continue to grow and have been complimented by new races on a diverse and intriguing ultra calendar with races such as The Wee Eck Ultra and The Cowal Way Ultra in Argyll.

 

Sadly preparations were not ideal with bad news 24 hours prior to the off but this did not deter our dream team or the near 200 plus runners and walkers from completing the gruelling Three Lochs Way.  An unbelievable and awe inspiring achievement. Here Jacqueline recalls her race experience.

 

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It was in June 2017, together with my running buddies Karen Hattie & June Macleod, that we decided to take on a challenge – The Three Lochs Way on Saturday 7th April 2018. An event organised by Pure Challenge.

 

Less than 24 hours before the event we received an email advising the company had gone into administration and all future events were cancelled. As this information started to filter through to everyone who had entered, there was soon a Plan B in place as participants from all over the country took to social media. Soon there were alternative arrangements being made to ensure that the event would go ahead.

 

Training throughout the worst winter in years we unanimously agreed that we would go with Plan B! The challenge was still on!

 

Rewind several months – We started our training in January with none of us having run more than a half marathon distance. We decided we would adopt the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run technique. It meant we could increase our mileage by more than the recommended weekly 10 percent rule and so reduce the risk of injury and fatigue. This worked well for us and we settled into a 4:1 ratio.

 

Our longest run, three weeks before the challenge, was an out and back along the cycle path from Linwood to Longbar (just past Kilbirnie). We were elated to reach a milestone of 26.3 miles! We couldn’t believe we had run a marathon distance, (I know a marathon is 26.2!) complete with backpacks containing everything but the kitchen sink!

 

Tapering for me included the Tom Scott 10 miles the week before the event followed by a snowy Easter Monday Runbetweeners session a few days later.

 

Friday 6th April – The Night Before

 

June and I drove up to Balloch where we had booked accommodation for the night, a rustic and bijou B&B! Karen drove up with her husband Jeff, who was going to be our support on the day, and they were staying in Dumbarton. We arranged to meet for dinner in Balloch later that evening.

 

After a wee cup of tea, and getting our stuff organised for the morning, June & I toddled along the road to a local hotel to meet Karen & Jeff.  We soon discovered that the restaurant was almost full of people who had travelled to Balloch for the event. Conversations soon ensued about the disappointment of the official event being cancelled but everyone was optimistic about Plan B and looking forward to meeting up in the morning at various times to set off.

 

 

Saturday 7th April – Race Day

 

1.15am – I was wakened by growling and rumblings in my stomach! I curled up and prayed it would pass but no – a mad dash to the loo! Fortunately, our bijou room had a bijou en suite. I emerged 30 minutes later cursing my choice of dinner, a gamey pate followed by tempura mussels and anchovies. I thought a ‘fish’ dish would be ok! As I crawled back to bed June appeared to be sleeping soundly and blissfully unaware of the volcanic eruptions!

 

5.30am – The alarm went off. Crikey, needless to say the last thing I felt like doing was a 34 mile run/walk/hike! I did feel better though and Etna had settled so I wisely stuck to my normal pre run breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana which I had brought from home. June went to the dining room where fruit, yoghurt and cereal had been left out for the early risers.

 

7.15am – Time for the off! We bundled our extra supplies into Jeff’s car and set off for the Visitors Centre where other runners/walkers had already excitedly gathered. We thought our Jeffing ratio of 4:1 would not be an option for the route and decided to run as much as possible and walk the challenging uphill sections. This proved to be a wise decision!

 

Stage 1: Balloch to Helensburgh 13.5km

 

Setting off from the visitors centre we passed through Lomond Shores, crossed a footbridge over the main road then a fairly steep climb to the ancient route of Stoneymollan road. This was an old coffin road used to carry the dead to a burial ground. Passing Goukhill Muir we crossed the Highland Boundary Fault with beautiful views over Loch Lomond.

 

The descent into Helensburgh was mostly rough track through open moorland and a deforested area with wonderful views of the Firth of Clyde. Our first checkpoint was in the car park of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, aptly named as its quite a hike up the tree lined streets to reach it! We were pleased to see Jeff already waiting for us there. Our fellow Bellahouston Harrier, Colin, had joined Jeff to meet us too. We only stopped long enough to refill our water bottles, have a quick snack and a welcome rhododendron toilet break and then we were off again!

 

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Stage 2: Helensburgh to Garelochhead 14.75km

 

Leaving Helensburgh we passed through woods, farmland and moorland until we reached some tarmac on the minor Glen Fruin Road. We met lots of other runners/walkers on this road and no one passed without shouting out a friendly encouraging greeting. The camaraderie was fantastic and helped to pass the time on this long stretch.

 

We met Jeff and Colin again at Checkpoint 2 which was at the Garelochhead Military Base. There were a lot more people gathered here than at our first checkpoint. This is where the local volunteers, on hearing of our cancelled event, dropped off water bottles, bananas, home made flapjacks etc. Again the mood of everyone was upbeat and it was great to meet up with others we had met along the way! By now we were being recognised everywhere due to our rather brightly coloured leggings!

 

Stage 3: Garelochhead to Arrochar 19K

 

This route took us through the Ministry of Defence Garelochhead Military training area. A tarmac road then mostly boggy forest roads with the occasional rocky trail. The route was undulating to say the least. We encountered an almost vertical hill by which time my legs were just about to give up and I thought I may have to crawl up it!

 

As this was going to be the longest part of the route we had a short respite at Craggan carpark where again Jeff was waiting for us with some welcome goodies. We also unloaded some of our waterproof gear & other things from our rucksacks, that we realised weren’t now essential (to relieve our poor aching shoulders), checked our feet for blisters, changed our socks and were soon on our way again.

 

More rough tracks, steep ascents and descents followed but soon we could see Arrochar in the distance at the head of the loch. The scenery was spectacular with wonderful views over Loch Long to the Arrochar Alps. It was just too misty to clearly make out the Cobbler though. Our legs by now were tiring with the relentless hills and it was a relief to reach our last checkpoint at Slanz Restaurant in Arrochar.

 

As the restaurant had not been advised until that day that the event had been cancelled they had already erected a small marquee where a BBQ had been set up in the car park. The smell wafting from there was so enticing but as we still had another 11km to go we settled for one of Karens white choc & peanut butter blondies and a lovely cup of hot tea. A luxury also to use the restaurant’s loos!

 

Jeff, as always, was there to psyche us up, top up our supplies and waive us off with a cheery ‘see you soon’!

 

Stage 4: Arrochar to Inveruglas 11km

 

We had been advised by the restaurant’s owner that there was a detour in place a little further down the road. We passed some walkers we had met earlier and then heard them shouting ‘you’re going the wrong way’. We walked for a few miles on forestry track passing or seeing no one else, growing concerned we may have taken a wrong turn. Suddenly a guy appeared from nowhere biking towards us from the opposite direction. We stopped to chat and he reassured us that we were on the right track to Inveruglas. We never did see the walkers again!

 

This was without doubt the toughest stage of the route. Weary with tired legs on a long track with more ascents. The trail took us through Glen Loin woodland where the path climbs up a narrow pass to Coiregrogain with Ben Vorlich visible in the distance. We finally reached a tarmac path and from there it was only a couple of miles and a welcome descent to the main footpath into Inveruglas.

 

About another mile along this footpath which runs alongside the busy A82 and then the Inveruglas Visitors Centre and the end was in sight! Jeff was there to greet us with a giant medaille en chocolat and a bottle of fizz!

 

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Jacqueline, June and Karen

 

Manchester Marathon – Jill Mair

Our final instalment on the Marathon Manchester comes from marathon debutant Jill Mair. Progressing from 10k a few years ago Jill committed to a marathon plan through the winter giving her the confidence to aim for a time specific target. Jill’s enthusiasm for running comes through this review. In turn her friends and family were out in force giving her timely boosts around the course, an important element for any marathon runner. ***Spoiler Alert*** We’re delighted to say that Jill deservedly smashed the Manchester Marathon.

 

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Never ever in my life did I think that I could complete a marathon!!

 

I started running when I was 30 and set myself the goal of the ladies 10k in Glasgow May 2011. I ran with mum’s from my daughters dancing. Four of us completed the 10k and I finished just under 57 minutes. I had caught the bug and the same year completed the Glasgow half marathon in 1hr 59. Sadly I didn’t do much after that, I returned to work, my girls started school and my running fell by the wayside because life got a bit hectic!!   Over the coming years I went out now and again but not racing.

 

Fast forward to July 2016, I was trying to get back into running when Gillian Glass told me about The Runbetweeners and as they say the rest is history and over the past couple of years my running has been consistent. I have completed a few half marathons and 10k’s since then and even joined the Bellahouston Harriers, my race times have got better and this is what made me believe that I could take on the Manchester marathon.

 

I have to say it is one of the best things that I have ever done. I trained hard five times a week and I stuck to my plan like glue. I just felt that for me, I needed to know that if anything went wrong on the day it wasn’t because I hadn’t trained. With being part of two running clubs I have plenty of people to go running with. I tended to do the weekday runs myself then always had company on the long ones. Susan and I did a lot of running together, having someone with the same goal is really helpful. We faced a lot of horrible weather but we laughed through it.

 

On the week leading up to the Marathon my excitement rose. I had no nerves, which for those who know what I am normally like on the start line of a race, this is not like me!!

 

The Marathon:

 

I woke up at 5.45, 15 minutes before my alarm. I had brought porridge and banana with me (my usual long run breakfast) I had that with a cup of tea and drank plenty water.

 

We all met up in reception at 7.45 for the walk over to the start line. The weather was perfect. There was a toilet stop and then we mustered with the 4 hour pacer and walked over to the start line with him. By 9.08 we were off it was all quite quick and we were on our way. We seen our first supporters Vicki and Lee(hubby) at around 4 miles. At 7 miles friends of mine that live in Sale were out to cheer us on. One of my best memories is at around 11 miles we turned a corner and The Proclaimers ‘I would walk 500 miles’ was blaring and that was just amazing and just after we saw our supporters again including my friend that had travelled down from Glasgow with her family just to watch the Marathon. Susan and I ran together for the first 16 miles which was great as we chatted away the miles.

 

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Once I went off on my own I just kept focus and kept an eye on my watch, to make sure I didn’t start to run too fast. I had a plan and I wanted to stick to it. 16 miles is when the route comes off of the tram line so our supporters were not able to get to us, I knew that I was not going to see them until the finish line. It was actually ok because there were plenty of people out to cheer on all the runners. It is amazing when someone shouts your name even if you don’t know them, it gives you such a boost.

 

I had trained to 22 miles so I didn’t even think about the miles until around 23 when I realised that was the furthest I had ever run. My legs were ok, but my feet started to hurt!!! The toughest part for me was the last mile and a half, I started to get a bit of a stitch and I felt a little sick but there was no way I was stopping. The finish line was insight. With not very far to go Lee and all my other supporters popped up and that gave me the boost I needed to cross the line.

 

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I can honestly say that I loved it. I still can’t believe that I have completed a Marathon. I am now resting but itching to get going again!!

 

Thank you to The Runbetweeners for creating an amazing group and to the members for becoming my running chums and support crew.

MANCHESTER MARATHON – KAREN ROSLING

Our second Manchester Marathon report of the week comes from Runbetweener Karen Rosling. After a brilliant training block and a great first 16 miles it’s a really honest account of what happens when things don’t go to plan during the Marathon.  Karen’s story shows that sometimes things don’t play out the way you want on the day and this is something most marathon runners are unlucky enough to understand. At the time it can be hard to accept after all the work you’ve put in but it’s important to regroup and recognise the enormity of the achievement.

 

Despite debilitating stomach problems Karen showed real grit and determination to finish the run when others would have chucked it and gone home. A truly heroic effort. We also love the bit about Vicki popping up at the right time and supporting Karen across the line. Well done Karen on a fantastic run.

 

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After nearly 4 months of marathon training through the most horrific weather conditions the plan was complete.  I was feeling fit and ready to go both mentally and physically. We had a fair few ‘character building’ runs which helpd me develop the mental strength I would need to get me through the 26.2 miles and across the finish line.  Trusting the taper was the hardest part of the plan as the miles and frequency of training diminished. Marathon panic set in.  Phantom niggles played havoc with my mind and I worried while I was resting for race day I was rapidly loosing fitness.
Race day was here! Surprisingly I was calm when I woke for breakfast and I remained calm throughout the morning, excitement was building.  We were actually going to undertake the huge challenge of the marathon.  After a mad and very stressful dash to the baggage drop, which turned out to be further away from the start than our hotel we followed the crowds of buzzing runners to our starting pen.  Once we had eyes on our pacer, the man that was going to keep us in check we settled and slowly made our way towards the start.
Garmins ready, we were soon on our way.  The first 4 miles passed with ease, keeping to the plan of starting off easy we kept with our pacer but everyone was wanting to keep right by him and it was becoming more and more difficult to run without tripping over feet.  We decided to run just ahead of him.  Unbeknown to us we had increased our pace and as we went through the 10k mark our main man wasn’t just behind us like we thought, he was nowhere to be seen.  Feeling good we pressed on, afterall we may need this time for the latter half of the marathon should we ‘hit the wall.’
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Donnan and Karen maintain an impressive early pace
Running good and feeling fresh, we were ticking off the miles.  The crowds and bands throughout the course offered amazing support and we were now looking for our own cheer squad.  Expecting to see Vicki, Lee and Anne around miles 8 -9 the next miles were passed reading spectators posters, giving kids high fives and scouring the crowd for our friendly familar faces.  As we passed and heard Vicki shout our spirits were lifted and so was our pace.  The crowd really do motivate you and keep you going.
As we reached the half way point, I started to feel my stomach growl and spasm.  Here I was the girl with the toilet phobia looking for a portaloo – I wouldnt use a portaloo if you offered me a million pounds!  As the miles passed my pace slowed and my stomach gave me more and more trouble.  By mile 16-18 I was now down to a run walk and by mile 18 I knew I could not run another step.  At this point I managed to convince Donna to leave me, and hoped she would still be able to get a decent time.  From here on in I spent my race looking for the portaloo.
My race really wasn’t going how I had dreamed.  As I walked fellow runners tried to encourage me to run but my stomach just wouldn’t let me.  I was starting to get upset and angry at the situation.  I had trained so hard and I knew i was better than this.  With my head down I walked and walked and walked, the miles taking longer to pass and the clock seeming to speed up. As I continued my sub 4.30 dream was gone and my sub 5 hour wasn’t looking good either –  I phoned my mum.  Answering the phone she was cheering, she thought I had finished but what she got was a blubbering me!
As I passed a marshall, I asked her where the next toilets were she simply pointed ahead and said that way.  I asked how far and she shrugged her shoulders.  It took great willpower for me not to punch her right between the eyes.  If only she knew how desperate the situation was.  Turns out the toilets were 3 miles ahead!  Not a good situation at all, at the aid station I seen an empty bin bag which I tied around my waist just incase.
 As I approached mile 22 I decided to phone Vicki to tell her to go home as I wasn’t finishing anytime soon.  The reality of the situation was just upsetting me and I wished the ground would open up and swallow me.  I started to look for another way to the finish line, at this point I realised I did have the grit, determination and stubborness I needed to finish this.  The marathon wasn’t going to beat me.
At mile 25 Vicki had walked to meet me.  She was a true angel, never have I been so glad to see a friendly, smiling face coming towards me.  I don’t know if she was as pleased to see me.  I honestly don’t think that I would of finished the race without her.  As we rounded the corner onto the home stretch I really didn’t thimk I could walk another step.  I could see the finish but I was done.  I eventually crossed the line in5 hours 20 minutes.  Totally gutted and so disappointed. 
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But as I crossed the finish I knew I would need to do another marathon.  On this occassion the marathon beat me but I will be back to beat the marathon and hopefully achieve my goal time.

Manchester Marathon – Susan Redpath

This is our first of three guest posts this week as some of our heroic Manchester runners reflect on their epic marathon journey. Susan Redpath has well and truly caught the running bug having run the Stirling Marathon in 2017 and looked to step up her performance levels in Manchester. Well safe to say Susan performed brilliantly, knocking 16 minutes off her Stirling Marathon time showing the results of a tough winter’s training.

 

A great read as she looks back on training in apocalyptic winter conditions, following a more structured programme, becoming more aware of training principles, training fatigue, recovery and the importance of a supportive running buddy.

 

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Susan and Jill putting in the hard graft during the winter

 

It’s the beginning of December and the start of Marathon training. Eek! Having talked a few fellow runners into doing it after Stirling Marathon and booking our hotel rooms in June, the beginning of the training was here, eek again! Manchester is billed as the fastest and flattest Marathon in the UK so I wanted to give it a go to try to run a sub 4 hour Marathon having completed my first marathon in Stirling in 4:13:57 in 2017. The mileage is not too bad to start with but oh wait, here comes the freezing temperatures which means ice, slippy roads & pavements. We didn’t have that last year. Oh dear, that’s because it was a full 6 weeks earlier. That’s ok, we can run on the grass when it’s icy. Oh how the weather got so,so much worse into the plan playing complete havoc with my plan and my legs and my head! But let’s stick with talking about the plan just now, we can come back to the weather.

The plan was hauled off the Hal Higdon website. Fellow Runbetweener & Harrier Gillian pointed me that way last year when we were training for Stirling. Hal who? No idea who he was or even that people followed marathon plans! I had always just got out and ran. No plan, no tempo runs (had to ask what that meant!) or speed sessions, just a blether with some running pals, mostly on a Sunday before I started going to the Runbetweeners sessions on a Monday (started May 2016). I then joined the Bella Harrier running crew in March 2017 so I had done way more running than before Stirling in 2017 so was feeling more ‘intermediate 1’ than Novice marathon runner, so I printed that one off.

 

Still felt a bit of a novice though but I liked the ‘intermediate’, it made me sound like I knew what I was doing. Ok so plan in place, I’m sticking to it. Too much too soon the year before resulted in an IT band injury. That was sore and is apparently a classic injury for a novice marathon runner but here I was as an intermediate so I knew better, right? Kind of but does anyone really know what they’re doing? It’s all trial and error, limits and recovery are personal to you. I’m old so I’m going to take longer to recover than a twenty something year old. So the 18 week plan was in place, now to implement it.

 

That’s where my running buddy, drinking Prosecco partner in crime, fellow Creme egg lover & Runbetweener (we met there) and Harrier comes in; Jill Mair. The pocket rocket! We ran as much together as we could and tried to do as many of our long runs together. This is important as it takes the pain & boredom out of the long, long runs and there are a few! You keep each other going. Three hours of running go by much more easily with company unless you’re running through a foot of snow, not once but several times. So let’s talk about the weather.

Ice, wind, snow, rain and lots of it, particularly the snow. We even travelled to the coast one Sunday to avoid the snow (at my suggestion) in Glasgow only for it to snow half way through our 14 mile run, finishing through a snow storm and an inch of snow on the beach! It never snows at the coast! It did that day and some. Another Sunday we ran 12 miles in six degrees below freezing. I couldn’t feel my fingers for most of it despite the gloves. Poor Jill fell on that run but no lasting damage except another jacket with a hole in it.

 

Hal recommends a half marathon about half way through the plan. There aren’t many in February in Scotland. Actually the only one that we found was in Livingston, a new race. So we entered. Now I think there’s a reason why there are no other half’s at all at that time of year; sheet ice. I mean ice everywhere and no attempt at gritting it by the organisers. This was a complete disaster. The race should never have gone ahead, it was far too dangerous. I said at the start ‘let’s go home, I don’t want to get injured’. Obviously we ran it . “We’re here now so let’s treat it as a training run.” So we did and I fell half way round. Whacked my knee straight down onto the tarmac & winded myself trying to catch the ‘jolly green giant man’ in front. Ouch! Picked myself up and carried on of course. It was character building and I’m happy to report that my character is now huge after the weather we had to train in! So it was Jill 1:Susan 1 for the fall total but I lived.

The countdown was now on and the mileage was increasing ever rapidly. It was now getting serious and the reality becoming more and more apparent that I actually was running another Marathon. We were doing 18.5 mile training runs in mountains of snow around Glasgow which was really tough going. What was I thinking? I was scunnered with the training. I’m so tired but hey, I can actually eat and drink loads and not worry too much, bonus! Oh I just want this over with. What’s my marathon pace? Marathon pace? What even is that? What if I need the toilet half way round and I can’t find a loo? Then 3 weeks of tapering began. Everything started to hurt and I’m not sure why. Most of it was in my head of course. Maranoia is real, look it up. All the self doubt set in but before I knew it, it was time and there was no turning back.

 

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Team Glasgow

We travelled down to Manchester by car the day before and met up with fellow runners and had a nice night at Zizzis carb loading and exchanging (mainly toilet) stories. An early night and early awake to get to the start about an hour before. Standing in the queue for the toilets most of that time of course. Before I knew it, we were over the start mat and all the anxieties disappeared. Telling myself ‘It’s another training run’. 

Jill and I ran together for the first 16 miles and chatted all the way round. Such a great atmosphere and so much fun. A highlight for me was at mile 6 when the Proclaimers ‘500 miles’ belted through the speakers of the stage next to the course with the ‘118’ runners on it. The atmosphere was electric and I felt great. The pace was on track for a sub 4 hour marathon. 

We caught up with another fellow Harrier, Tania at mile 16 and that’s when I started to feel it and my pace slowed. Miles 16 to 22 were tough for me so I was grateful for Tania’s company. I felt tired and sore but I knew if I dug in I’d feel better. The course has sparse support at this mileage point as it’s difficult to access other than by foot or bike and wondered if that had an effect on me too. I managed to pick my pace up for the last 4 miles just as the support starting building up again. I wasn’t letting the sub 4 hour marathon elude me. I knew the good for age time (3:50) was out of reach but Sub 4 Hours wasn’t. The noise was incredible from the crowds on the final leg which gave me a real boost. Manchester didn’t disappoint and I finished in 3:57:19. Not quite a good for age time but I’m really delighted! London next year, anyone fancy it?

 

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Confessions of a serial spectator – top tips for supporting!

“This isn’t my first rodeo” – a phrase uttered by me on a few occasions last weekend as I was complimented on my ability to whizz and direct my way around Manchester to find good cheering spots during the marathon. As a former running widow, before I took up running myself, I have been to many a race to cheer on Jack and have become great at finding good places to spot runners. Finding my way around an unknown city with ease has become second nature and last weekend earned me the nickname ‘Satnav’!

So without further ado, here are my top 5 tips for race spectating –

1.       Before you do anything, download Google Maps and any transport apps that will help you get around on the day. During bigger races, Google Maps also shows the race map on the screen, so you can see how close you are to the race – handy when running off a tram and finding your way to a good spot! For major cities I swear by the Citymapper app which has helped me navigate my way around Manchester, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and London. This app is incredible, simply put in where you are going and it tells you how long it will take through different modes of transport – walking, cycling, public transport and even Uber. It gives clear guidance step-by-step on how to make your way to your destination and has offline public transport maps available.

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2.       Work out with your runner how long they are going to take and where they would like to see you. By working out how long they will take for each mile, you will be able to check if you have enough time to get to your agreed spectating points, whether by public transport or walking. There’s nothing worse than agreeing to be at miles 5 and 9 then on the day realising that this is a logistical nightmare! Downloading a pace guide can help as this will tell you when to expect your runner at each mile. My friend’s husband had worked this out perfectly during Manchester which really helped. Also consider how busy the race/city will be. In Manchester, we were lucky to squeeze on one tram as it was completely crammed. Had we missed that tram we may have missed our runners, so do take this into consideration if you are trying to see them more than 2 or 3 times. As London is so busy during the marathon (and Jack is super-fast), for my own sanity and ease of spotting him, I will probably only see him at one or two spots on route before I must race my way to the end.

*side tip – also agree where to meet at the end of the race. This was something we didn’t do at Amsterdam and it was only by pure chance that I found Jack at the end. Don’t agree to meet at the finish, it will most likely be crazy. Most races put on lettered meeting points which are a good place to find people.

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3.       If there is one, download the official tracking app for the race. These can be unreliable as so many people are trying to get on it at once, especially at London, however they can give a good guide of how your runner is doing and when they will get to your spot. At Manchester, my friend’s husband was able to see that she started 8 minutes after the official start time and we could then use that to calculate when we would see her. The app was also able to tell us if anyone had slowed down or sped up. These are also great for tracking at home I you can’t make it to the race.

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4.       Have a spectating plan. Trying to spot your runner in a sea of people is hard, your eyes are darting around the place and unless they are wearing something distinctive, you may miss them. The same goes for them, if they have their head down concentrating or just soaking up the atmosphere, they may not notice you. Agree with your runner what side of the road you will be on, that way they can try and stick to that side and see you. Another good tip I’ve had in this area is, if you know the route well, agree on a landmark to stand beside, eg I’ll be outside the bike shop, or beside the red post-box. Mile markers can get busy too so tell your runner you will be 200 yards away from it. If there are a couple of you spectating, agree in advance that one of you will take photos and the other look out for the runner otherwise you both might miss them. At Inverness I was on my own and while trying to fiddle about with my phone camera I almost missed my friends. Sometimes it’s better to just soak up the atmosphere and give huge cheers rather than trying to get a photo at every spot.

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5.       Finally, take a bag. This is my way of getting a few tips in one to keep it to a top 5! My race day essentials for spectators starts with a battery pack. Watching races can be a long day and if using your phone to take photos, track and navigate, it will drain your battery. I got mine from Amazon for about £10 and it has about 2/3 full charges in it when it’s full. Secondly, get a travel card for the city you are in, this saves time and money on the day. Next, maybe take some extra gels, energy drinks or snacks for your runner if they would like you to. Things happen in a race and they may lose some so it might be handy to have spares. Finally, fill with your runner’s essential post-race items. They will have their own bag drop but, just in case, have some extra layers in there for them (and for you – it can get cold watching!), salty food to replenish those lost salts, sugary food for a pick me up, and plenty of water. Prosecco, beer or champagne never go amiss either!

There you have it, my top tips for spectating. Other than these, just shout really loud, make sure you’re seen and give them all the support you can! Remember that lots of runners may not have the support that your runner does so give them a shout too, especially if they look like they are struggling and need some encouragement. Races are a truly inspirational and humbling experience for runners and spectators, so just soak it in and enjoy.

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Sue Hancock – Runbetweener of the Month

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Sue Hancock is one of those runners (and we are blessed with lots of them) who make leading our group a real joy. Sue has an instinctive ability to put people at ease, a crucial skill in the anxious environment of a running club. As a result the chances are high that if you are a nervous newcomer Sue will be one of the first people to welcome you into The Runbetweeners community helping to put many people at ease in those crucial early runs on the road to developing the running bug.

 

Sue is always a good extra pair of eyes out on a run, feeding back invaluable information about routes, injuries and group progress. Indeed Sue often sacrifices her own run to support others with encouraging words of wisdom and rep-passing chat.

 

In many ways Sue is the perfect coach without even realising she is doing it.

 

Always cheerful, ever supportive Sue is the perfect candidate to be April’s Runbetweener of the Month.

 

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THE WARM UP WHEN THIS SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA

ABOUT YOU

Name: Sue Hancock
Age: 65
Town of Birth: Chesterfield
Running Club(s): The Runbetweeners (and ) Giffnock North
Something interesting we don’t know about you: I’ve touched Jimi Hendrix and sang with Nelson Mandela.
THE LONG HARD MILES WHEN YOU WONDER WHY YOU’RE DOING THIS

RUNNING (write as much as you want)

How and when did you start running? Started in my 50s. By nature I’m a team/game player so individual exercise was new for me, and at first it was literally running to 1 lamppost and walking to the next.
Why did you start running? I finally ran out of squash partners
What is your favourite route to run? Why? Along the coast from Armenistis to Nas, Ikaria, because it’s beautiful and the island is our bolt hole.
What is your favourite race? Why? Don’t have one.
Proudest running achievement? Why? My first 10K. It took me I hour 20!
What are your current running goals / ambitions? Don’t care about distance or speed – just to keep on running.
One bit of advice you would give a new runner? Stick at it. It gets easier, and more enjoyable, quickly.
What does your better half think about your running? He’s supportive but if he’s honest he doesn’t think I try hard enough, and annoyingly he has a point.
THAT BIT WHEN THE SMILE RETURNS TO YOUR FACE

SPRINT FINISH (answer in less than 5 words)

What is your favourite Runbetweeners session? Hills – weird I know
If you could run anywhere in the world? Over the Golden Gate bridge.
Pollok parkrun personal best and seasons best? PB 27.14; SB 31.40
Favourite parkrun? Pollock Park. Just done my 202nd
With 6 months injury free training how fast could you run Pollok parkrun in? 28.45 mins, if I really tried.
Favourite distance? 7k
Who is your running hero? Irene Zingone
Your best running habit? Getting up early Sat mornings.
Your worst running habit? Bad posture
One for the guys – tights or shights?
Kenny or Jack? Who?
COOL DOWN

WELL EARNED CAKES

Describe The Runbetweeners in your own words. Easy going, encouraging group of different levels and ages.