A huge thank you to Runbetweeners Kirstin and Paul for this fantastic write up of the Tom Scott Memorial 10M race. This has been one of our top races for the last few years and is always a great event…
The Warm Up
View of from the finish line – the Loch at Strathclyde Park – a beautiful day (photo credit: Finola Ashe)
Kirstin: 31st March, first day of spring when the clocks go forward, and Mother’s Day. So naturally I was up at six to eat my porridge before going to collect Paul, and head to Strathclyde Park for the Tom Scott Memorial 10 mile road race. After a brief journey in which t-shirts/gloves/base layers and sunglasses were debated as racing options, we met Finola and were good to go.
Paul: An absolutely smashing day for a race; not too warm, hardly a breath (in the main) and glorious sunshine. It was time for my first crack at a 10 mile race. I’m definitely of the opinion that the weather helped lift me for this one. Training had been good after the rigours of Strathaven, but I’d been a bit lazy the last couple of weeks. I’d three targets in mind, but the middle one (a 1:25) was the realistic target (and had been for some time).
The Start Line
Partaking in a leisurely warm-up, though we’d like to say we always look this at ease when running (Photo credit: Alan@allsport-images)
Kirstin: It’s funny how as a runner you can find such a sense of camaraderie standing in car parks and toilet queues. Personally, I was very excited to spot Mark Gallagher of Running Friends Scotland blogging fame. I didn’t fan-girl, but it was close. It was clear this was an impressive field, and over 700 runners, completing the 6k and 10 mile option set off together, making for a very impressive site to behold spread out across the loch in the park.
Paul: As Kirstin said, a hectic start (as anyone that’s done Parkrun up there will know) with both races starting at the same time. Based on previous times, I’d positioned myself after the middle but hadn’t taken account of the 6K runners, but no harm was done. I went off at, I thought, a reasonable pace, but mile marker one passed in 7:34, and I forced myself to calm down. The flat course didn’t help, I wanted to push, but once beyond the Parkrun bit it gets a bit undulating and we were soon turning on the main road towards M&Ds. A long, steady, uphill, then downhill took me to 4 miles.
Kirstin: I had also set off at a fast pace (we all were there for a PB), and enjoyed the first half of the race. However, at mile 5, as you run back along to the Watersports Centre, I was overtaken by scores of faster club runners on their final sprint home. This should have been inspirational but was just demoralising as I knew had to go round the loch again at this point. Paul was significantly ahead of me at this point, so his view was slightly different…
Paul: Past 5 miles and heading towards the Watersports Centre was the long straight, and a wee bit of wind. Comfortable at this point I was approaching the Centre for the first time (we were to head round the back) when the lead out cyclist past and announced the lead runners were coming through. The leader passed me about 50 metres before the turn off point. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really happy with that. (Kirstin: I would take being half as slow as the winner any day of the week!)
The Long Road Home
Kirstin: At mile seven I caught the lovely Terry Nimmo from the Bellahouston Roadrunners (also a Runbetweener), and she was absolutely my saviour in the final stretch. I’d pushed myself way too hard in the first half. Every inch of my body hurt and I was so ready to quit, but Terry expertly coached and coaxed me round to a personal best at this distance of 1:37:15. I can’t thank Terry enough.
Paul: I’d settled into a rhythm, enjoying the scenery, avoiding (or failing, as it turns out) the midges with one full lap of the lake (6K) to do. I was feeling it a bit, but knew there was only one more up and down section to go. I decided to assess the situation at 8 miles. At 8 miles I was looking to be almost bang-on a 1:20 time. That was my top target and was outstanding in its own right, but I was feeling it. But I’m stubborn, so Go Hard or Go Home. 800 metres to go the Low Battery warning came on obscuring all timings on my watch – but I didn’t want to press the button for fear of pressing the wrong one. Lets be honest, we can’t have Strava having incorrect data!! Crossed the line in 1:19:14. Delighted, I was. Nowhere near the front, over 30 minutes behind the winner, and I couldn’t have cared less as under 1:20 hadn’t really felt realistic.
The Finish Line
Amazing how quickly you can recover with a medal and mars bar in hand! Paul, Terry, Kirstin and Finola from left to right (photo credit: Finola Ashe)
Kirstin: At the finish I met with Paul and Finola again, who had blasted their races and came out with amazing PBs. Paul looked like a car windshield, covered in the midges which has plagued us the whole way round, which was testament to his speed. A caramel log and a mars bar later, and suddenly I was feeling great again. Funny that. On the whole I enjoyed the race (though nobody warned me about the hills or the midges). I recognise that this is a fast course for fast runners but it pushed me to a PB, and was another race I am proud to say I’ve completed.
Paul: I had a medal, a mars bar and a midge beard…and a smile.
Regular Runbetweener Kirstin has written us a fantastic guest review of last week’s Great Scottish Run…
Having joined the Runbetweeners over two years ago, and strangely turned into someone who can run and enjoys running, the GSR Half seemed like the ideal challenge to take myself to the next level. I’d completed one half marathon before – on holiday in Amsterdam in Oct 2017 with no training behind me other than the GSR 10k – and after months struggling to train for an eventually cancelled Alloa Half, I decided I was finally going to conquer this distance. The timing of this race was perfect, as I could take advantage of the lovely summer weather and long daylight hours to actually put in the significant training that had always been lacking from my race efforts.
My training officially started with the Run the Blades 10k– from then on I added a mile a week to my long runs. I knew there were some issues with my general fitness, so I also joined a 10 week strength and conditioning class, and I know this has had a huge impact on my stamina. The training was tough at points, but I knew it was necessary, and on the morning of the run, I knew I was able to run the distance, and run it well.
Race day arrived. The train journey in to the city centre was very busy with runners, and it was great to be able to see the 10k runners along the Clyde as we approached Central Station. I had downloaded the app on my phone, so I knew my fellow Runbetweeners including Kirsty Cunningham and Susan Redpath were well into their 10k efforts and I vainly tried to spot them. A short jog later, and I was at the start. I had a target time in my head, based on my Kyles 10 Miles effort, and on the week of the race slowly started vocalising this, slipping out to people that “I’m really keeping it a secret, but I want sub 2:15”. However, something funny happens to me when I’m on the start line of any run though – I get competitive. And as soon as I found myself in the green wave – front and centre – I knew I wanted 2:10. I couldn’t see anyone I knew around me that I could run with to help me secure this target, or even a pacer (short people problems), but I decided I should push myself and before I could question things further it was time for a cheesy choreographed mass warm-up and then we were off!
The run starts by following the same route as the 10k, with an incline up St Vincent street, a quick jog round trendy Finnieston, and then the highlight of running over the Kingston Bridge! My pace was fairly fast for the first three miles – I decided I needed to make this time at the start to give me a shot at 2:10, but then I steadied myself out and settled in for the long haul. I didn’t know the next part of the route too well, but I soon found myself on familiar territory as many of my training runs had been around Pollokshields, leading into Pollok Park. Knowing where I was going really helped, as I could set myself clear targets. There was also great support from Runbetweeners spectators Donna Gillon, Jenny Brown and Blythe Lindsay.
Running through the park was lovely as always, but when we came out and made our way to Bellahouston we found ourselves in a very cold, heavy shower and running into a headwind. This mile wasn’t pleasant. Soon though we were out of Bellahouston and on to the home straight. I really couldn’t believe how quickly the race was passing and how strong I felt. I checked my watch at every mile and my pacing was really steady. I knew I could make 2:10, and unbelievably I saw I could get home sooner than that! From miles nine to twelve, my mantra became “maintain”. I was so scared of running out of steam, and this part of the race was hard work – but I wasn’t giving up! Running over the Squinty Bridge I got another boost, with great encouragement from Ian McBain of GFR. From then on, it was straight alongside the river to the finish. This is such a fantastic part of the course – everyone has given their all, and it really putting in their best efforts. Unbelievably, as I hit about 12 and a half miles I spotted June MacLeod ahead of me. This is how I knew I had just run the race of my life, as June is a much faster runner than me. In June’s defence, she was on her twentieth mile of the day, as part of her Bamburgh Marathon training. I chased June to the finish and was absolutely delighted to finish in 2:08:28.
This race really is a special one. The huge number of participants across the 10k and Half Marathon events, and the family mile and races for young people the day before gives Glasgow a huge buzz. A huge number of Runbetweeners not yet mentioned in this report participated including Gillian Glass, Karen Rosling, Anne Williamson, Jill Mair, Paul Burningham, and Jacqueline Glass. (Jack and Kenny ran too of course). The event is wholly inclusive, but also provides the ideal challenge and I can’t wait to return next year.
A huge thanks to Eilidh Dorrian of Phyzz.ED for putting together this guide to recovery to help our runners get over their Great Scottish Run! For more tips and advice, Eilidh can be found on Facebook @Phyzz.EDphysiotherapy .
So you have decided to do the Great Scottish Run. For some of you it would have been an easy decision but for others, this might have been one of the most challenging things ever. Weeks of training, sweating, chaffing and blisters and it’s finally here. But then what?
Here are a few simple tips to help you recover.
After you finish, a wee celebratory drink might be the first thing you think of, however your muscles and the surrounding tissue need to be hydrated. Drinking water will help the blood circulate round the body, flushing out the lactic acid and helping lubricate the synovial fluid in your joints. Drinking a sports isotonic drink will also benefit muscle recovery and stop night cramps.
2. Drain the lactic.
If your legs have been feeling the burn in the final stages of the run it means lactic acid is saturating the muscle. As soon as you can, use gravity to drain the lactic out.
Find a wall, lie on your back with your legs straight up the wall.
Draining your legs helps get the lactic back to your kidneys to be processed.
3. Ice Bath
I know the last thing your going to want to do is dive feet first onto a bath of ice but trust me, it’s for your own good.
If you can’t face a bath, then why not try the cold water in the shower. Run it over your legs. 7 mins if you can but anything is a bonus.
Help your body rebuild and refuel. A good balanced meal with a good balance of carbs and protein will help muscle recover.
5. Massage and Rolling
Hmmmmmm. Massage is often mistaken as a great way to get lactic out your legs as you cross the finish line.
Both massage and rolling should be put off for at least 24 hours following the finish of the run. Massage will release more toxins into your blood and can have the opposite effect, overloading your wee bod and hampering it’s recovery!
If in doubt and you’ve tried everything and still feel sore, get it checked.
An absolutely mind-blowing, epic challenge. Not much more needs to be said.
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.
Loch Lomond, Gare Loch and Loch Long
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!
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!
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.