Making Waves at the Troon 10k

After a brief but thorough downpour earlier in the afternoon, the skies cleared and the stage was set for a fast evening of running at the Troon 10k on Wednesday night. Among the eager runners lining the seafront stood several Runbetweeners, many of whom were anxiously preparing for their first 10k of the season. This was not an event that I would be participating in myself, instead I had the troublesome task of cheering from the sidelines and patiently awaiting the famous fish and chips while the runners got battered (sorry!) by the increasingly noticeable wind.

As we stood at the start line, I was amazed at the number of participants that this race attracts – I always forget the size of the event and it is a testament to the Troon Tortoises that it runs so smoothly every year. I did not realise until I was informed on the evening that members of the club are not allowed to enter the event themselves and are instead expected to assist in its running. It is on a separate night later in the week that the members then run the route themselves in a more private race after which they bestow upon themselves (quite rightly) the race day t-shirt. The impressive organisation of the Troon Tortoises was a stark contrast to the pre-race preparation of Kenny Taylor, who realised two minutes before the start of the race that he was wearing the wrong trainers and was forced to dash back to his bag, moving faster than Gillian Glass when a new race appears on the calendar!

Trainers switched, Kenny made it back to join the masses and moments later they were off. The runners weaved along the seafront as wave after wave they were released from their pens. A bold start from Michael Deason in the blue and yellow vest of Shettleston Harriers made his intentions clear and he led the charge with Richard Mair of Kilmarnock and David Millar of Irvine Running Club in pursuit. Hundreds of smiling faces followed the lead pack away from the sand and around the golf course as the wind guided them gently away from the start line.

The chief support squad of Vicki, Finola and I, made our way to a point at roughly 4miles where we would be able to see the runners pass before making our way back to the start. Here we watched as the lead group passed, with daylight between each of them, looking strong into the final stages. Many familiar faces passed by with runners from a vast number of local clubs making the effort to attend this event. Mark Porter of Bellahouston Harriers flew by on his way to smashing his PB shortly before Kenny came bounding around the corner on track for a fast time of his own. Following in Kenny’s wake were fellow Harriers Neil Nairn and Mikey Gowans who both went on to absolutely annihilate their own PBs – surely a great sign for both with Neil having recently run the London Marathon and Mikey closing in on his race in the Edinburgh Marathon at the end of the month.

Leading the charge for the Runbetweeners were Paul Burningham (running for Bella Harriers) and Jenny Brown. This was a huge race for both runners as Paul succeeded in dipping under 40minutes for the first time and Jenny managed to finish as 13th female on her debut over the distance in an impressive time of 43:22.

There were great performances all round from the Runbetweeners with a bucketload of PBs from Gillian Glass, Kirstin Campbell, Karen Rosling, June McLeod and Clare Taylor. Jacqueline Glass also put in a great performance and managed to equal her PB which suggests it’s only a matter of time before that barrier is crossed!

As the race drew to a close, the rain decided to make an appearance and we disappeared swiftly into the local chippy for a feed. Annoyingly, were too late for fish but we left with a steaming bag of chips in hand and made our way back home feeling pretty pleased with our little mid-week trip to the seaside!

Well done to everyone who took part and thank you to the members of the Troon Tortoises for putting on such a great event – The Runbetweeners will definitely be back!

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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A very late summary of my final preparations for the Berlin Marathon.

Since running the Berlin Marathon, several people have approached me to ask about the sudden halting of my training updates on here. I managed to write up my training reflections for the first few weeks of the block however these soon fizzled out when things got a little hectic at work. For now, the details will remain on the pages of my training diary but here is a quick summary of the final few weeks…

Training

Ticking off several key long runs containing chunky sections at Marathon Pace did wonders for my confidence and I found myself entering the taper period with my eyes fixed firmly on a PB. A particularly gruelling session took place three weeks prior to race day and is definitely one which I will repeat in future marathon endeavours. The session covered 24M and included 5 sets of 3M at Marathon Pace with 1M between each set at a pace roughly 45secs/mile slower. This was a tough workout but it never felt like I was out of control and this gave me a huge boost. We drove out to Paisley for this run and made use of the cycle path down to Lochwinnoch and back. This was ideal as we did not have to worry about traffic, hills or road crossings.

Taper

I took a fairly short taper and maintained a slightly higher mileage than in previous Marathon build-ups. This definitely helped me psychologically as I was running well and it was nice to be running comfortably on a regular basis in the lead up to the race. I also followed a similar eating plan to my Amsterdam Marathon effort of 2016 – if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it!  This meant that I spent three days doing a ‘carb-depletion’ phase at the start of the week and then followed this up with four days of ‘carb-loading’. On the day prior to the race I settled back into a regular (although still fairly carby) diet in order to avoid feeling bloated on race day. I know that there is a lot of debate regarding the effectiveness of ‘carb-depletion’ but it seems to have worked for me in the past so I’ll continue to do it.

Race Day

On the morning of the race, I woke up very early for breakfast. I have struggled in the past with stitches when eating late and have since found that eating 4hours before my marathon does the job and works for me. I went for my standard pre-marathon breakfast of porridge, banana and a coffee and then sipped an isotonic drink throughout the morning. I also had a small flapjack a couple of hours later just to keep hunger at bay.

The Result

I was over the moon with my results of 2:31:31 – a shade faster than I had been hoping for and a shiny new PB. I loved the route and will follow this brief summary up soon with a full review of the race itself.

The Jimmy Irvine 10k

This was my first stab at the legendary Jimmy Irvine which is somewhat surprising given how popular the event is among the Glasgow running scene. A really interesting article about Jimmy is hyperlinked below. 

A normally flat route traversing the inside of Bellahouston park and Mosspark Boulevard this years route stuck mainly to the inside of the park with a trip to the highest point thrown in for good measure. A nice touch for those pining the loss of the Southside Six and flagpole bagging this year.

 

 

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Thankfully There Was a Lead Bike for The Boy to Follow

 

Inspired by Laura Muir and Mo Farah I decided to double up and run both the Short Course X-Country at Kirkcaldy and the Jimmy 10k this weekend. For me racing, within reason, has never been detrimental to my performance as long as I am careful with my training load (this does not take much persuading on my part). I have certainly lived by that mantle in the last 6 weeks, limiting myself to one or two sessions a week with a splatter of iconic races thrown in to the mix. Racing brings a joy that training can’t quite match and gorging on them is easy at this time of year. 

Feeling in good form the target was to break 39 minutes for the first time after carding 39-08 twice already this year. My 5k and half marathon times in recent weeks meant bar disaster this was a realistic goal. 

 

Heading to the Jimmy I was buoyed by the news that the course was only a little hillier than previous years and likely to be only marginally slower. This news came from the Oracle Matt via The Boy so in running terms was indisputable after being crushed through super computers, cross referenced and studied in depth. On top of this it was a crisp, clear morning, perfect for racing.

 

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I decided to jog to the start rather than cycle or get a lift and the 2 mile warm up loosened the legs and cleared the head. The midday start was ideal allowing the paths to clear of any ice after one of the first big freezes of the year. It was great to see so many Bella vests and Runbetweeners both racing and supporting as I made my way to the start line.

 

Starting pretty close to the front of the pack I anxiously questioned whether I had positioned myself too close to the rapid guys so I set off at a comfortable pace over the first 600 metres or so rising slowly towards the farthest reach of the course. The new route heads out towards the Nithsdale Road exit before turning 180 around a cone giving the rare opportunity to eyeball the opposition both in front and behind. The next 400 metres then climbs to legendary Southside Sticker Stop number 5, thankfully up the gentler path rather than the steps. Sadistically this was one of my favoured parts of the course as the field thinned and I took a few scalps. Working hard on the climb I maintained my sub 4min km pace on what I knew would be the tougest section of the course hoping I hadn’t expended valuable energy this early in the run.

 

Reaching the summit I enjoyed opening up my gait through the long downhill drag towards Paisley Road West and the 2km marker. This was a cracking section to pick up the pace and let loose. The route then follows the outermost path in the park past the sports centre before heading for Mosspark Boulevard. Flat and fast it’s important to keep on top of your effort levels in the middle section of this run.

 

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Exiting the park briefly the route reenters the park before turning back on itself brutally into a previously unnoticed headwind. Gritting the teeth you head towards the second of the three laps (I am not sure this is an accurate description of the route as you only cover some parts of the course twice) where I was immediately spurred on by The Runbetweeners Support Squad who had placed themselves brilliantly on a section of the course that was to become very familiar over the next few km.

 

Approaching the cone for the 2nd time a quick body check told me I was in good shape and heading for a new pb (a pretty big one at that) if I could maintain the pace. Giving The Claw the eyes I felt strong as others around me started to fall back as i tried to corner the cone at race speed. Forcing me much wider than turn 1 I focused on the pack ahead and set about catching as many runners as I could. 
Heading towards the 5k mark we passed the support team again and the encouragement spurred me back out towards the furthest reach of the course, this time running the outermost path past the sports centre in the opposite direction. Around this point I got detached from other runners, noting as he passed in the opposite direction that this had happened to The Boy too. After lauding the benefits of pack running earlier in the year this spurred me to kick again to reach the group in front.

 

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Passing the sports centre around the 7.5km mark I was starting to struggle although the terrain was dead flat. It was therefore nice to get some shouts of encouragement as runners passed in the opposite direction. I really liked this about the New course and spent a large part of the switchback sections exchanging words of support with friends out on the course over the final few km. It was such a sunny day it was hard not to feel inspired and upbeat amongst so many friends. 

 

Heading back to the Boulevard the relatively small incline felt worse than the trip to the summit of Mount Flagpole this time around. With the knowledge that I was nearing the head wind again, and on ever-tiring legs, this was the point in the race when you just need to get the job done. 
The strategy now was to pick up some places over the final 2km, this would ensure I had the best chance of maintaining the pace I had set throughout. It was great therefore to head back into the heart of the park and receive such an incredible amount of support for a third time. At the same time the Boy was approaching the finish and looked to be running well despite being isolated on his way to an incredible 4th place just a little outside his own pb. 

 

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With just over 1km to go the route heads out to the cone for a third time before heading back to the start / finish zone giving a fourth opportunity to pass through the wall of noise in an area of the park that should surely be named ‘Runbetweeners Racket’. Spurred on by cheers and the buzz of my watch indicating 6 miles I kicked for home only spotting the clock at the final second clicking to 38:00 as I crossed the line.

 

With a previous pb of 39-08 and a race target of 38-30 I was delighted to see the time but slightlt gutted that I had missed a landmark time of sub 38 after apparently coming so close. The way a runner’s mind works sometimes is pretty cruel.  
It was therefore with great relief that on checking my garmin and chip time I clocked in at 37-55. A pb of 1minute 13 seconds. 

 

In conclusion then I won’t have a bad word said about this excellent pb potential course. Superbly marshalled, excellently supported and diligently organised this is one I will definitely be back for next year. Just the right amount of elevation to make it interesting this creative route made the most of the limited space and road restrictions to deliver a great race experience.

 

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https://www.strava.com/activities/1272453181/overview

 

There were great performances right through the field with The Boy leading the Harriers to team prize alongside strong runs from Harriers and Runbetweeners on a tougher than anticipated course – sorry Oracle Matt 😉

 

Thanks to Kenny Phillips and Claire Fitzsimmons for the awesome race shots and to everyone from the Bellahouston Road Runners for their efforts in organising a great event. 
Article on Jimmy Irvine – http://www.scottishdistancerunninghistory.scot/jim-irvine/

Glasgow Half #greatscottishrun

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The Runbetweeners at the Start Line

 

It was brollies at the ready this morning as I headed in to town to meet my Dad early doors. One of the biggest events in the cities sporting calendar, it’s brilliant to see the streets of Glasgow given over to runners for the day and although the weather was miserable at best the sprinters definitely got the best of the day as conditions deteriorated in the early afternoon. Heading towards the river the buzz on the Broomielaw as the 10k runners hit the 9k mark certainly inspired me as I said my goodbyes and made my way towards George Square for the start of the half.

 

The Great Scottish Run had not been in my plans this year with cost a significant factor given the range of community / running club organised in many stunning parts of the country. Followers of the blog will know that that big city runs don’t feature too often but there’s something special about pounding the streets of your home town with larger numbers of spectators than normal. With a half price entry due to last’s years short course I decided to go for it and was determined to finally dip under the 90 minute mark this morning after narrowly missing out on a number of very challenging courses earlier in the season.

 

It was great to see so many Runbetweeners taking on the challenge this morning and people were in good spirits before the start.  Everyone was confident following a good period of training and keen to round of the summer season in style. In my own head (after a pep talk by The Claw) I was aiming for a race plan of:

 

Goal A – sub 85 minutes

Goal B – 87.5 minutes

Goal C – Sub 90 minutes

 

Setting multiple goals is something I have picked up from listening to the Marathon Talk podcasts and it’s something I wish I had been capable of doing earlier in my running journey.

 

Heading off from St Vincent Street I stuck with David from the Harriers who was pacing the 90 minute runners. A relatively gentle but prolonged uphill drag it’s important not to get too carried away here and on the climb up the Kingston Bridge if you are to run well on the flat later on. I was deliberately holding something in reserve and between the 1 and 2 mile mark I started to move away from the 90 minute group.

 

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Early Doors – Photo Credit Coach Tony Coyne

 

The section between Scotland Street School and Pollok park ticks off a lot of miles and I was pleased to see a huge Harriers and Runbetweener support crew at the end of St Andrews Drive including both my wife and The Boy. This meant I would see them again 3km later when exiting the park. Feeling spurred on by their support I picked up the pace a little and started passing other runners regularly. The uphill reverse parkrun climb is part of the Harriers Time Trial route and I was able to put local knowledge to good effect. I know the number of paces, every pot hole and inch of this section of the route and through gritted teeth I maintained a sub 6-30 minute mile pace before picking up to a quicker split at the brow of the hill.

 

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Photo Credit Jacqueline Glass

 

Exiting the park and spurred on by my support crew for the last time I knew the toughest miles lay ahead. Bellahouston Park is a tough little section as you pass through the middle miles of the course and switchback a number of times. I was feeling confident though a bit concerned that the field was getting a bit strung out. On the two small Bella climbs I managed to pass a few other runners bringing me into contact with a group of about 4 runners for the pass down Paisley Road West.

 

A watch check showed I was about 18 seconds outside Goal A around the 9 mile mark but on track for Goal B. A quick body MOT told me I was in good nick although the ball of my foot was burning badly – this has happened in my last few runs in racing flats. Turns in particular were painful but more the grin and bear it than slow down sort of pain. Most importantly my legs still felt good and my breathing was controlled, even on the climbs. I was definitely on for a crack at Goal A so I decided to try and pick up the pace rather than leave it too late and regret it later on.

 

Miles 10-12 passed comfortably as I clocked 6-20s. Crossing the Squinty Bridge I knew the finish was approx 1.5 miles away and I decided to kick again along the flat drag. The road quality improves here and it was nice not to feel every small crack and bump in the road in my racers as the ball of my foot continued to burn badly in my new shoes.

 

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Weather Deteriorating Badly – Photo Credit Kenny Phillips

 

As I neared the final 1k it was head down and dig deep time for the first time in the race as a combination of the distance and quick miles caught up on me. Seeing the big screen and a motivating message from my number 1 fan gave me the oomph heading into the final 400 metres. I could see the White Wave clock ticking closer and closer to Goal A with each passing stride but was delighted to cross the line just under 1:25:00 and in a chip time of 1:24:42. Officially a PB of 5mins 27seconds. Not bad.

 

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This is definitely one of my top 3 performances alongside my stand out 10 mile races of 2017. 2018 is going to be about the Marathon and 5k and 10k and I need to take confidence from recent performances. This was a great end to a brilliant week after The Boy and I received news that The Runbetweeners has been nominated in the category of Best JogScotland group.

 

It was great to shelter under the umbrella in The Clutha’s beer garden as the wind picked up and rain got heavier cheering on Harriers, Runbetweeners and familiar faces. Most looked pleased with their efforts and are hopefully resting up and reliving the day on catch up TV. Well done to everyone and I’ll maybe even see you next year.

 

If you like what we do and want to keep up to date with The Runbetweeners give our Facebook page a like. We’re also on Twitter and Instagram and you can follow the blog.

 

https://www.facebook.com/The-Runbetweeners-1654515041438088/?hc_ref=ARRhLENQCIfzjOLpiwSV5Abn1T8H3LvB8as6KiA2k201dwpCsP5bx-HOAKB5VclUHC8

 

Strava Geeks – link below:

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1210568205/overview

Tips for First Time Marathoners – The London Marathon 2017

A week on, and with the pain in my legs now a distant memory, it seems the time is right to review my 4th crack at the London Marathon and 6th tilt at the distance overall. Well not really a review – more a message to myself 7 years ago and hopefully to some of you gearing up to your first marathon.

 

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So Many Messages of Support

 

Setting off for Blackheath last Sunday I’ll admit I knew I was going to run strongly and that there would be no repeat of the infamous walk/crawl/drink beer strategy adopted on my last London in 2013. I had a 3:20 and 3:25 timing band on my wrist and knew with 100% confidence I would achieve this sensible goal in my marathon journey. Quite a jump from my previous runs of 4:02, 3:57 and 4:03. The reason was simple – with a badly bruised ego after several calamitous runs I was finally ready to listen to all the advice anyone who’d ever run a marathon before had ever given me. I’d made most of the mistakes they advised me to avoid and wonder in hindsight if that had to happen for me to finally accept what they were telling me.

 

When you tell other runners you’re doing your first marathon you will hear the same things all of the the time. Guys telling you about mistakes they’ve made and warning you not to make them too. But if you’re stubborn like me you’ll convince yourself they don’t apply to you, that you are ready to hit a strong performance before you are ready. Well the reality is that if you don’t treat it with the respect it deserves the marathon will bite you on the back side. For me I’ve had to learn from my mistakes before I got to this stage. I’ve sat head in hands at the roadside. I’ve clung on to barriers. I’ve willed people to stop shouting my name and longed for the ground to swallow me up. On the flip side my stubbornness has somehow got me around each of the previous 5 marathons I’ve run.

 

If you’re lucky you might be the type of person that listens to others or you might learn some of them in training. If not remember so many factors come in to play on race day so be prepared. So much has to go right – kit, weather, nutrition, health, pacing, ablutions etc. As a result your first marathon is unlikely to be your best or even the most pleasant experience but like most tough things in time you’ll only remember the good bits. You’ll dust yourself down and get back on again.

 

 

So what makes me so happy with last week’s effort? Was it time? No it was being in a mindset beforehand that I was going to enjoy it, run consistently (perhaps even a bit within myself) and make a good stride forward in my own marathon story.

 

And that is it. The realisation that I wanted to be happy with my performance and not beat myself up about a time afterwards. It’s the first lesson I was told and the one you’ll get when you tell an experienced runner you are doing the marathon – listen to them. Be happy with your performance and don’t chase a time goal. Running 4:02 in my first really annoyed me when I should have been really pleased I could get around and proud of that fact.

 

What else should you know?

 

Lesson two is let the field go. I’ve learned to pace races well in the last few seasons and every race I go to sees most folk hitting the start too fast and fading in the second half. Nothing gives you the feeling of a strong performance better than being able to pick up speed in the home straight (well maintain your pace in the marathon – hanging on in the final miles is as good as speeding up). Consistent splits will see you reel similar runners in who set off too fast. This is a timely boost (albeit based on the suffering of others but I’ve been the other so it’s ok). Negative splitting is difficult in the marathon but consistent pacing is possible for all.

 

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A Career in Professional Pacing Beckons

 

Lesson 3 – listen to your body and adjust your goal accordingly. You’ll know by mile 9 how you are feeling. Do a body MOT from head to toe. If this is starting to sound a bit like the runner’s cliche bingo it’s because the things you always hear are right. So if it’s not your day treat it as a training run and drop the goal pace. Trying to stick with Plan A when it is not going well will result in a really tough day out, probably a world of pain and maybe even some tears (I mean dust in my eye).

 

Lesson four – don’t let a costumed runner dictate your race strategy. Trying to stay ahead of someone dressed as a banana isn’t sticking to your race plan. It’s messing with your speed and that banana is just going to pass you later in the race. It’s a long way and that banana is probably a sub 3 hour marathoner once peeled. It’s a potential banana skin 🙂

 

 

Lesson five – when the pacer for your life goal goes past consider letting them go. When the 3:15 bus went past me last week I was so content it actually felt good letting them disappear over the horizon. It meant I was on pace. They should be getting further ahead of me. Rewind 3 years and I would have been trying to cling on to them for dear life. This resulted in the 3:30, 3:45 and 4:00 paceall passing me before the finish line. That’s a poor outcome in any book.

 

Lesson six – do not worry about your pace until the crowd thins. If you’re first mile is a minute down from goal pace, bonus. You’ve just had an easy mile and you’re in better shape than expected for the final 25.2. Unless you have the self discipline to catch it up at 2 seconds a mile for the final 25 let it go. If you try and catch it up you’ll bust yourself as you’ll try to do it in those very important first miles. Relax in to the race. Aim to feel strong certainly at half way. Similarly do not weave in and out at the start to get on pace. This will increase your total distance. 26.2 is crazy, who wants to run any more.

 

And that is about it. I was so determined to enjoy it and run steady that the miles flew by. The route merge where the Red and Blue starts come together and Cutty Sark passed the first 50 minutes with a carnival of music and dance as we passed through different boroughs. I was having a blast and the greatest danger of cramp was in my cheeks as I laughed and smiled my way along the first half of the run. Turning the corner to Tower Bridge I allowed myself to enjoy the iconic sights and crowd at one of the most special parts of the course. Turning right towards the notorious Isle of Dogs I cheered the elite runners coming the other way – 9 miles further up the road – rather than curse them for being so close to the end.

 

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Mile 14 – This Year The Banana Thorn in My Side Was a Giant Corn in the Cob

 

 

Another strategy I adopted from around mile 9 this time around was to count down the miles rather than count up. Mentally this helped in bringing the finish line closer and closer with each marker. Seeing my support crew twice helped as well as chasing the Road Runner vest several hundred metres ahead of me. The World Record for fastest Bishop, Monk and Nun was either just in front or behind me for most of the race meaning the crowds were noisier than normal and with the weather brightening up over the morning there seemed to be more people on the route than ever before.

 

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Mile 21 – Still Enjoying It But Lost The Ability To Direct Waves At People I Know

 

And so as I exited Canary Wharf I did another top to bottom body MOT and was in good shape aside from a nasty chafe on my right ankle – a new one on me. Vaseline-d up I was able to keep going with only minor discomfort. A great feeling with approximately seven miles to go. Then as always it gets tough and you need to dig deep. From the elite through the club runners to the run-walkers this is the same and what unites everyone who runs the marathon. If it was easy everyone would do it. Keeping going is the last thing you want but knowing you are well prepared and getting closer to home with every step will see you through.

 

This time around it was mile 22-24 when I started to hurt but nowhere near how bad it had been before and perhaps that is what got me through. I’d made mistakes by not listening to others and hurt big time in 2013 but maybe that is what it took for me – to learn the hard way. And then you see Big Ben and it still hurts. I used the mile dedication strategy for the final seven miles, thinking of someone during each mile. This hadn’t been planned and I found myself thinking of quite different people when the going got tough. This definitely helped.

 

And then you get near the finish and people tell you it starts to get easier again. Well this is one piece of advice that is wrong 🙂 It doesn’t get easier and the 1 mile to go, 800m to go, 600m to go and 400m to go will make you want to punch whoever thought it was a good idea to cruelly count down such massive distances at that stage of a marathon. The only one that helps is rounding the corner at Buckingham Palace with 200m to go and seeing that iconic finish line.

 

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Crossing the line in 3:22:31 I had managed a 35 minute course pb and a 22 marathon pb. I know I could have run faster but I was delighted. Anything faster would have been too big a risk, too big a jump and I wouldn’t have had a really great experience. So that is what a good performance is for me now. Incremental improvements towards my goals making sure I continue to learn how to run. The simplest of things but a much more complex sport than I ever imagined when I decided to become a runner back in 2010 with my first London Marathon.

 

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Lisa Covered As Many Miles As Me Out On The Course Supporting

 

It is such a great event. Full of emotion with great stories, real people, amazing sights and vocal support all around. I am really glad to have been lucky enough to take part in four. My only regret was not listening to other marathoners sooner.

 

Or perhaps all this is sentimental rubbish and the reason I ran so well was that I dressed backwards. Wearing my vest back to front in particular made The Boy’s year.

 

The Runbetweeners Review 2016

At this time of year (well we’re a week late but most of you will be used to us being late by now) folks normally sit down, reflect on the previous 12 months and plan for the year ahead. It’s been a pretty phenomenal year running wise both on the track (and road, trail and hill) and off it with visits to old and new races near and far including some international excursions, the growth of our own running group and the launch of Rouken Glen Junior parkrun. A year of pb’s for both of us but what have been the highlights?

Between us we have raced a lot in the last year making it hard to narrow down the list to just 10. Therefore we went for 12 So here follows the countdown of our best 12 races from 2016.

Look out for next week’s blog post as we pick 12 races for 2017.

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  1. Springburn parkrun (Kenny) – 14th of May 2016

This one makes the list as I managed to break 19 minutes for the 5k for the first time in a shiny new pb of 18-47 (gaining qualification to the elite sub 19 minute pack at the Harriers). Jack, in the middle of a heavy training schedule, decided to pace on this one allowing me to shadow him around the two loop course. Running in a small pack is something that I’ve learned this year can be extremely effective in pursuit of personal best times. An added bonus on this one was gate-crashing Springburn’s 2nd birthday celebrations meaning there was cake aplenty at the finish.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/happy-birthday-springburn-parkrun/

    11. Polaroid Clydebank 10k (Jack) – 19th May 2017.

The Polaroid series has been a staple of my running calendar for the last few years and in 2016 I approached it in a slightly different way. In the past I had entered all four events but this year I decided to enter just one and to target it for a personal best. I was over the moon to break 33minutes for the first time here and this made it a highlight of the year for me!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/polaroid-clydebank-10k-2016/

  1.  Brian Goodwin 10k (Kenny) – 17th of June 2017

Another pb for me on a brilliant evening in Pollok Park. After dipping under 40 minutes for the first time at Troon a few weeks before, I was delighted to take a good chunk off  my 10k time finishing in 39-30. An annual event, the race is organised by our club – Bellahouston Harriers. Knowing I was pacing the Men’s 10k a couple of days later, I decided to take this one easy but felt good from the start and again used similar runners to pull me along. Moral of the story: if you are feeling in the zone just go for it. A two lap course, the route takes in many of the flatter parts of the park and Haggs Road. To top it off entry includes a beer and a burger. What more could you ask for?

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/brian-goodwin-10k-2/

     9. parkrun du Bois de Bolougne. (Jack) – 26th March 2017.

What better way to spend my birthday that by striding around a Parisian park – they even let me cross the line first (there’s no winning in parkrun, apparently). This was my first international parkrun and was followed with cake and champagne under the Eiffel Tower. An awesome day and a birthday I will never forget!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/a-parisian-parkrun/

  1. #Glasgowparkrunsmashup (Both) – 15th of April 2016

2016’s answer to the Clyde Trail this was the one that was meant to send us trending worldwide. Unfortunately while we were up before dawn the rest of the running world was asleep, uninterested or both. The idea was simple – run each of Glasgow’s 5 parkrun routes in one go arriving at Pollok in time for the 9-30 start. As usual planning a sensible route was almost the undoing of this challenge as we cycled between each of the parks. Much harder than anticipated when the idea was hatched over a beer or two – 15.5 miles of running, more on the bike and very little enthusiasm, interest or support for a daft idea making this everything a good runbetweeners challenge should be Surely still a record? parkrun UK we are still waiting on official notice…

https://twitter.com/search?q=glasgowparkrunsmashup&src=typd

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/glasgow-parkrun-smash-up/

     7. Bushy parkrun (Jack) – 25th December 2016

This Christmas I decided to head back to where it all began and took part in Bushy parkrun. Lining up alongside 1200 other parkrunners for a free 5k run on Christmas morning was incredible and the atmosphere was even better than I had expected. I will definitely be back!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/bushy-parkrun-a-christmas-cracker/

  1. Dunoon Ride and Run (Kenny) – 2nd of April 2016

A momentous day as I topped the podium at this event in my hometown. Put together by the team at No Fuss Events the concept of this one is to bring the cycling enduro concept to running. Basically there are four timed stages and you can walk / jog or sprint between each. A 5k out along the prom is stage 1. Stage 2 is a gentle uphill trail section of around a mile. Stage 3 is two laps of the ash track at the local stadium. The final stage is a trail and road downhill smash up finishing on the newly restored pier. Total times from all four stages are added together and the lowest time wins. Simple. In this case the winner was shocked – especially since I’d taken a wrong turn on the first 5k section. My first and likely only victory – hopefully the event never happens again and I can lay claim to the title for the rest of my running days!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/dunoon-ride-run/

     5. Tom Scott Memorial 10Miler (Jack) – 10th April 2016.

This was a favourite of mine in 2015 also. There is a huge field at this event and there is always an abundance of fast runners. This means that there is usually a good pack to run in. At this year’s event I felt great and managed to run with a brilliant group of good mates who were all hitting good levels at fitness at the same time. The result was a fantastic pack run with a train of Harriers and a big PB for myself.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/tom-scott-memorial-10miler/

  1. The SouthSide Six (SS6) Kenny – 6th of November 2016

One of our absolute favourite races of the year and a Glasgow institution. The only reason the SS6 is not at the top of the list is that it’s been there before. This year Jack gave the run a pass leaving me to join the others toeing the line in this challenging 16-mile course. For those who’ve not done the race before it’s a 6 park tour of the south side painfully climbing to the highest peak in the two hilliest collecting stickers along the way. A brutal finish up the stairs and slopes of Queens Park, this one is always worth it for the excellent feed alone. This route sells out quickly so register for facebook updates to ensure you don’t miss out in 2017.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/southside-six-2016-ss6/

     3. MOKrun 1/2 Marathon (Jack) – 29th May 2016.

Our third visit to the Mull of Kintyre and, despite not coming home with the trophy, we still loved the experience of the weekend. A friendly, well organised event with a fantastic route and a brilliant post-run Ceilidh. Magic.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/running-a-mok-in-campbeltown/

      2. TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2016 (Jack) – 16th October 2016.

After four months of focused training, I finally made my way over to Amsterdam in an attempt at a new pb. A brilliant weekend and my first international Marathon – I’m sure it wont be the last!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/amsterdam-marathon-2016/
And the number 1 race of 2016 in our humble opinion….

  1. Kyles 10 Miles (Both) – 10th of September 2016

This was our second visit to the Kyles of Bute and this race did not disappoint. A challenging and hilly route the 10 mile distance is a good marker to test out speed endurance. Guaranteed good weather (we’ve been twice and it’s been sunny both times), unbelievable scenery, beer on tap at the end and a BBQ followed by a ceilidh in the evening. A cracking race; low key, excellently marshalled, reasonably priced and growing in popularity year on year. A worthy winner of the title of 2016 Runbetweeners Race of the Year.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/kyles-10-miles-2/

 

Finally, a short footnote to those races that didn’t quite go to plan in 2016. No prizes for guessing which race ends up in the number 1 slot. Bang goes the idea that the runbetweeners will ever make our fortune Stateside…

 

  1. Toward for a Tenner (Kenny) – 6th of August 2016

Before I go on – Jack won this race, it was brilliantly and cheerfully marshaled, well organised and positively reviewed by local and visiting runners. I’ll be going back in 2017 and this race offers excellent value relative to other similar half marathons.  The addition of a 10k race makes this an inclusive running festival. Any negative feedback that follows is down to my own race naivety. On a positive note I suppose you learn more from the nightmare races than the ones that go well but this was everything that could go wrong in one race for me.

Starting far too fast and thinking I was in much better shape than I was, I decided to launch an attack on a near 5 minute pb on this one. There is no excuse really as this is my neck of the woods therefore I should have anticipated the wind factor which made running out in the first half a much more demanding effort than it would otherwise have been. Struggling badly the group I was in gradually put some serious distance between me and them as a stream of runners gradually passed me with words of genuine encouragement.

 

However I couldn’t help but slow to a near standstill by mile 7 reaching a point of exhaustion usually associated with a heavy session of sprint intervals or hill reps. Burned out by half way I managed to drag myself home thanks to the support and encouragement of my friends from Dunoon Hill Runners who were out in force (plus the fact is was an out and back course and all my gear was back at the start line). The first race I’ve run/walked in a long time and a massive positive split on the second half of the race. Meeting a friend who suffered an underwear malfunction and was running pantless for the final miles perked my spirits at mile 10 giving me the last ounce of strength to jog home the final 3 miles. The closest I’ve come to DNF’ing yet.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/toward-for-a-tenner/

  1. Nationals – Short Course X Country (Kenny) – 5th of November 2016

Not a bad run – in fact I ran pretty well. Also not down do my hatred for the terrain as I’ve enjoyed the x-country much more this year. Perhaps I’m developing a love for the grass and mud as I become more experienced, fitter or maybe it was just down to the fact the weather has been much better than equivalent events in 2015.

This had all the ingredients to be a good one – I’d been training well, top athletes such as Laura Muir were competing and the event was reasonably close by meaning we could get there early enough to see some of the top junior and female races.

However the choice of venue was a strange one. The route was a two lap, pancake flat circuit around a playing field. Single file around the park perimeter the route lacked imagination or the challenge you would normally associate with such a prestigious race in the Scottish Athletics’ calendar. As a result it didn’t get a look in on the blog. Shame.

The worst race of 2016 award goes to…

1. Sommer Sports Florida Clermont 5k (Jack) – July 2016

You will have heard me rant about this one before I am sure but what kind of race doesn’t set up the finish line! Having got up early on my honeymoon to go and race this 5k in Florida, I was loving leading the pack for the whole race. I built myself up a nice lead and kept running for the finish – only to find that the finish line wasn’t there yet! I kept running down the road until I realised there was a problem and when I turned back the finish line had been constructed behind me! Witnesses at the end of the race spoke to the organisers and it was decided that I would still get the trophy but an angry competitor (relegated to second place) kick up a fuss and I did not get it. The organisers then ignored my email (I know I got petty!) and refused to respond to my questions on Twitter. I’m going to stop writing about it now because it’s getting me angry again haha -for more info read the review 😉

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/there-is-no-finish-line/

 

 

Amsterdam Marathon 2016

Having secured myself a satisfying personal best at the London Marathon back in 2015 (read about it here!), I made the decision to skip the 2016 event in order to focus on my first ever autumn marathon. The theory behind this was twofold: firstly, it would enable me to develop some speed over shorter distances by focusing on my 5k and 10k racing through the spring, and also that it would enable me to complete a substantial part of my marathon build up during the summer holidays when I would have more time to train and recover. It was incredibly frustrating therefore when I fell victim to a series of minor injuries in the early stages of 2016. Despite these setbacks, I was able to start my marathon training block 12 weeks ago upon the return from my holiday in Florida.

The training went about as well as I could have hoped. I had to be cautious building up the miles each week in order to avoid aggravating my earlier injuries but I also had to be prepared to take some risks or I would stand no chance of hitting the sort of times that I was hoping to achieve. This fine balance was one which I would obsess over and each week I made careful notes in my training diary of any slight niggles or concerns that arose in every session.

I was incredibly fortunate to have a very knowledgeable training partner in Colin Thomas for this undertaking. Colin has a marathon PB of 2:33 and was recently back from a training block in Kenya where he had spent time talking to some of the most successful marathon coaches in the world. Colin also gave me feedback on my gait along with some exercises to help improve my running and help me to avoid injury. We trained together as frequently as possible over the months leading up to the race and I felt my running improving dramatically every week. We both had similar goals for this race and having somebody to train with on the long, hard sessions was invaluable. I also benefited from the detailed feedback and advice offered by Matt Brown who helped me understand a lot of the theory behind the sessions which I was undertaking. It was thanks largely to these sessions that I found myself sitting in my hotel in Amsterdam the night before the race with a belly full of pasta and a feeling of confidence that I was in the best shape of my life.

5:30am. The alarm screeched across the hotel room – I had taken no chances with the volume control – and I was immediately alert. During my training I had experienced a few issues with stitches and had decided that I needed to allow a little longer between the start of the race and breakfast. After a moment of sheer panic, during which I thought we had no kettle in the room (Vicki did not appreciate being woken up to help me fix this!), I realised I could get boiling water from the Nespresso machine and was able to prepare my trusted pre-race fuel of porridge to go with the slightly squashed banana that had traveled in my suitcase from Glasgow in case I couldn’t find one in Amsterdam! I washed the whole lot down with an espresso and began sipping my bottle of Isostar. The entire operation was completed by 6am and I then found myself in the slightly awkward situation of having a couple of hours to kill without waking Vicki. A little stretching and yet another read through of the race instructions filled some of this time before I gave up and tried in vain to get a little more sleep.

Leaving the hotel as the rest of the city slept, I made my way to Colin’s hotel so that we could travel to the start together. Our train was filled with the smell of deep heat and the sound of nervous voices, whispering away in a hundred languages, as the morning commuters tried coming to terms with the challenge that awaited them. We poured off the train and into the area surrounding the Olympic Stadium. Our race would begin on the track itself under the gaze of a stadium filled with supporters. Once we had squeezed through the entrance and found ourselves on the start line the atmosphere was fantastic – although the very narrow start line meant that the crowding was a little uncomfortable. A few minutes to warm up and we were ready to go.

The start of the race was a tricky one: 17000 people all trying to run on an 8 lane running track is never going to be easy. Nevertheless, we made our way out of the stadium and away from the city. I found myself settled early on into a small group of about half a dozen runners that included Colin and also our former club mate Stuart Macdougall. We hit a steady pace and began counting down the miles.

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The first section of the race was fairly uneventful and to be honest I can’t remember any of the course itself. At the 11km mark we were greeted with a cheer from Vicki and Leigh which perked us up a bit and then things returned to normal  until we hit the canal path a few miles further in. This was a section which I had been warned could be very lonely as there would be no spectators and the route would be highly monotonous. I was very lucky to be running in a group with friends as there was some good banter as we made our way along here which helped keep us ticking along.

We hit the halfway point in about 76 minutes and I felt fantastic. The pace was manageable and I felt strong. I was a little annoyed however that my drinks bottles – which the organisers had offered to place out on the course for me – had not materialised. I am not sure how this happened but neither of my bottles ended up being where they were supposed to be so I had to make do with the little paper cups of water. This made things a little tricky as trying to drink from a paper cup whilst running at speed is not a skill which I have mastered! Nevermind- I would just have to get round quickly!

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During the second half of the race our group broke up a little and Colin and I found ourselves a little isolated. It was great to see the girls again on a couple more occasions to break up the route and provide a little more motivation however aside from these moments of support the route was very quiet. As we entered the final 10km we were running on our own and the crowd was non-existent. It was about this time that my calves began to suffer. I felt a tightness come into both calves which was not enough to force me to stop but definitely gave me something to think about. The fear of not finishing started to creep in and I started to let the pace slip a little. Colin was also beginning to suffer and was experiencing bad cramps in his leg. With a couple of km to go, he told me that the cramp was causing him issues and that I should push on for the final stretch.

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As I came into the Olympic Stadium I managed to put on a bit of a burst and overtook a competitor on the final bend. I crossed the line in an official time of 2:34:13 – a 3.5 minute personal best. Whilst it was not quite as quick as I had been hoping for, I was pleased to secure a big PB and was delighted to discover that I placed 49th overall and was the 3rd Brit. It was nice to finish in the stadium but we were quickly shepherded out again and I thought it was bizarre that we were not able to get any water at the finish line. There would be no water available until we had left the stadium and reached the larger area outside.

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After the race I enjoyed my first beer in months along with a fantastic portion of fish and chips! Vicki and I spent the following day exploring the city (although mainly by boat due to my sore legs!) and eating lots of amazing food! I am pleased to have made a step forward with my marathon time and had a great weekend but I don’t think I would rush back for this particular race. The route itself was pretty uninspiring and the lack of crowd support was definitely noticeable. Whilst it was undeniably very flat, there were also very narrow elements to the route and lots of sharp bends which makes me think that it is not as fast as other courses might be. I would not have enjoyed this marathon as much as I did had I not been running in a pack containing my mates.

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I have only been home a few days but already plans are forming for the next one. Possibly London 2017? Maybe Berlin? Either way, I am looking forward to getting back down to Bella and putting in some training with the rest of the club. Besides- I’ve got cross country to deal with first!

St Magnus Marathon, Orkney. 3rd of July 2016

 

Summer holidays finally here, Lisa and I travelled to the wonderful islands of Orkney last week to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Completely coincidentally 🙂 we also happened to be there at the same time as the inaugural St Magnus Marathon. It had taken a while to convince Lisa that Orkney (and therefore the Marathon) would be the ideal destination but it did not disappoint with brilliant weather, long days and stunning scenery.

 

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11pm at Night

After a couple of days sightseeing we set off early on Sunday morning for the stunning backdrop of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. A field of approximately 100 runners amassed giving the race a very different feel to previous marathon experiences in big city events.

 

The small field meant that there were many nice touches such as the ability to community regularly online with race organisers in the run up to the event and the option to have personal drinks, gels and other food on numerous drinks stations around the course. A privilege normally only afforded to elite runners.

 

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Surveying the start line

I arrived on the start line in good shape after a number of pbs this year but still doubtful that I could perform to my potential at the marathon distance given previous disastrous experiences at the distance.  During training I had significantly increased my mileage, including a good amount of race pace and tempo miles, however long runs continue to be my nemesis. Work, illness and injury meant as usual I had not completed as much of my plan as I would have liked. But I was here and I was fit.

 

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The day before we had driven the route in reverse and although I had looked at a route profile weeks before I was surprised by how undulating the course actually was. Add to this a couple of niggles the week before and it was time to reevaluate my race goals. I decided to set off in pursuit of a 3:30:00 marathon.

 

 

Setting off through the narrow main street of Kirkwall I was comfortable being boxed in for the first half mile having learned that a slower start is more favourable to a quick start at the marathon distance. As the route widened I began to move through the field climbing out of Kirkwall Bay. A climb that surprisingly lasted for most of the first 4 miles of the race. Although gradual, the climb put me behind my goal race pace. I was reassured therefore to pick up a couple of runners (Michelle and Neil) from Moray Road Runners who I had earlier overheard discussing a similar strategy to mine. The next mile gave a sharp downhill recovery although I was conscious not to be over zealous in recouping lost seconds.

 

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As busy as it got 🙂

Even in the early stages there was good support on the course as many runners had their families out and about with the advantage that they were able to drive ahead a few miles at a time and see us at multiple locations. A good local turnout in the race also meant that many Orcadians were out and about to giving great support to all runners. Lisa did a good job of making sure as many people as possible were shouting for me.

 

A light drizzle fell around miles 5-7 but the scenery meant it was easy to pass the time detracted by the stunning backdrops. Around this point the two Moray Road Runners put a small gap between us and I dropped off the 3:30:00 race target. I could tell that we were gaining on a group of about 8 runners approximately 400 metres further ahead so decided to let a small gap grow happy in the knowledge that I was at least running at a consistent effort if not pace owing to the undulation.

 

 

After passing through Finstown I managed 5k at a decent pace on one of the flattest stretches of the course between miles 10 and 13. I opened my legs up a little, was feeling reasonably good and had just collected my first personal drink out on the course. Feeling like a pro I was perhaps over cocky as my gel which had been sellotaped to my drink exploded on opening covering me in the sweet sticky stuff.

 

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A combination of stronger head winds and, albeit shorter, climbs meant my pace again began to drift at this point. A short sharp climb around the half way stage was followed by a good descent in a pattern that marked out the next 5 miles of the route. Thankfully I was still running comfortably and knew that my effort level was probably a better measure of progress at this stage rather than pace if I was to ensure that I did not blow up in the final miles of the race. With the sun out again it was nice to run a short distance with some other runners.

 

As I neared mile 18 I could tell that the distance and undulation was now catching up on me and I was aware that my pacing had drifted to a point that I would not be able to be made up in the final miles of the course in pursuit of 3:30:00. With goals reevaluated in my own mind I decided I’d be happy with any sort of pb.

 

 

Everyone knew that miles 19-23 were to be the toughest on the course and I really struggled, even on the downhill, to maintain any sort of pace around this stage of the race. A short walk up the steepest climb was necessary but gave me enough of a respite to run the final 5km although by now I was slowing with every mile. The thought of the end was all that was keeping me going. Two brutal climbs in particular made this a brutal section of the race on tired legs.

 

But for once rather than feeling sorry for myself it was time to appreciate my surroundings and how fortunate I was to be able to take parts in events like this. The marshals were great, Lisa was giving enthusiastic support and the views at this section of the course were incredible. I’d almost completed a really tough but spectacular course and a decent pb was still within reach. Summiting the final climb the Brough of Birsay came into view meant the end was in sight.

 

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A final stinger in the tale was half a mile of off road running along a grass path before a short climb to Birsay Hall. But by now I was running with a couple of other runners and I was grateful that I could tuck in behind and follow them home. The look of relief captured as I crossed the line says it all.

 

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On reflection I am glad to have taken on a completely different marathon experience. The UK’s most northerly. Although the course was extremely challenging Lisa and I had a brilliant time incorporating the run into an incredible holiday in a stunning location. Who knows where our second wedding anniversary will take us?

 

As always thanks go to the race organisers and volunteers who did a brilliant job putting on an extremely well organised event in a stunning part of the world. If you don’t mind hills I’d definitely recommend this one. Make sure you plan a few days around the race to see Orkney though. It’s well worth it.

 

3:44:42 – 12 minute Personal Best.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/633571087/overview