Medal : No – instead we got a super bright technical t-shirt, caramel wafer, banana, milk and gatorade.
Last year this race was one that I was not particularly looking forward to. The weather on the day was horrific, my legs were pretty sore and it was exactly 2 weeks before I was going to run my first ever marathon so training had mainly consisted of high mileage and back to back runs. This year it also fell 2 weeks before Loch Ness (I should notice the pattern here!) and one week after having already ran a marathon, so needless to say speed work has been somewhat minimal and my legs were even more worn out that the previous year. But as it’s a local race and I can run it and get back to my weekend by lunchtime, I thought I might as well give it another go.
I had a bit of a lie in seeing as the race was only 15 minutes down the road and by 9:45am I was outside the Peak Sports Center in Stirling with my fellow Wee County Harriers, enjoying the atmosphere and cheering on the kids in the 2k run. The race also doubles up as the Scottish championship race for that distance and was packed to the rafters with tall, lean very fast looking runners who would fly around the course in times that take my breath away just thinking about, as well as the usual familiar faces I regularly see at events like this.
At 10:10am we made our way to the starting pen and bang on 10:15am, we were off! This is probably the flattest 10k race I have ever taken part in so I knew I could get a good strong start and then my plan was to keep it up for as long as I could. The only short race I have taken part in this year was the Brig Bash 5 back in July where I managed my first mile under 7 minutes and then sat between 7:10 and 7:40ish for the following miles. I knew if I could do that again a slight PB might be on the cards as during this race last year my last few miles were around about 8 minutes and I struggled in the last mile or so. Were my tired, achy legs up to the challenge? I was about to find out!
I remembered to get nearer to the front of the pack as last year I got really held back in the first half a mile as the field spread out. Straight away I could see the front runners away ahead and disappearing around the first bend in the road and I got into my own steady rhythm and switched off to what was going on around me. Before I knew it my watch beeped and the first mile was over. The road dipped and then turned to follow the river around to Cambuskenneth, again all totally flat, and I was still managing to keep my pace up. Over the bridge, up a slight incline and onto the out and back road where the front runners began to pass us. Pushing on I concentrated on my breathing and maintaining a steady pace as I rounded the cone and started on the return leg. I passed a few of my club mates, exchanging high fives and well-dones and noticed that there wasn’t much between me and a few of my WCH friends, so again I dug deep and pushed on back to the main road. Coming up to 4 miles my legs began to burn a bit and I felt like I had slowed down considerably, but a brief glance at my watch told me that in fact I’d only slowed my pace to 7:29. This was possibly the fastest I had ever ran! All I had to do now was keep it up for another and a bit miles and it would be over…
We flew back over the narrow bridge, back through Riverside and onto the second very slight hill in the race and this just about ruined my legs. I checked my watch again and the suddenly realised that even if I ran a 10 minute mile I’d still get a PB, but I had no idea how close behind me the next WCH runner was, so my competitive nature kicked in full force again and I flew round the last mile of the course giving it everything I had left. A large sign on a lamppost saying “400m to go!” was the final push I needed as I powered up to the finishing line and yelled with delight as I saw my final time. 45:50, which is 2 and a half minutes faster than my previous personal best. I was absolutely ecstatic! I wobbled up to the marshals to get my timing chip cut off and trying to stop my legs shaking once again.
Medal: Yes as well a certificate, mug and access to a health spa afterwards!
My original plan for this race was for it to be a training run in advance of Loch Ness at the end of the month. I had high hopes for a good time but the main goal was to go out, have a comfortable run and try to finish the whole 26.2 miles with no wobbles or too many negative thoughts. Well, I think I just about managed that….
There were 10 Wee County Harriers running this race so once again we organised to use the school mini bus, courtesy of Kirsty, to transport us all there and back. I got up at some ridiculous hour in the morning and went about my normal pre race routine of shower, breakfast, coffee, hair, double and triple checking I had all my kit and then at about 6am I dragged poor Craig out of bed to give me a lift up to the school to meet the others. Everyone was in good, if somewhat sleepy, spirits and by 6:45am we were on our way north to the scenic Perthshire town of Aberfeldy to complete my third marathon.
We arrived at race registration with plenty of time to spare and got our race numbers and timing chips sorted before being handed our mug and then headed back to the bus to start getting ready. We still had a good 50 minutes or so before the race started so some of the guys went up to the local leisure to use the toilets and get changed. Time ticked by and before we knew it, it was 9:10am and time to head round to the start line. The others suddenly appeared back so we took what we needed off the bus and set off down the road to the start which was about half a mile away from race registration. Our walk turned into a power walk and then, realising we had 2 minutes to go, a gallop along the road to the back of the pack of runners lined up and ready to go. Just as we caught up with them we heard the count down from 3 and then the foghorn to start the race so our gallop slowed to a jog as we casually joined in at the back of the pack. Yeah, we meant that…
The first few miles whizzed by as we heading out from the village of Weem and followed the road East, past the village of Dull (having a wee giggle when we noticed it was paired with a town called Boring) and then turned onto a minor road for a few miles of gentle ups and downs. I was feeling strong and confident and there was only a slight hint of the voice in my head chanting “sub 4, sub 4, sub 4…”. I pushed it aside and continued to focus on the task in hand at that precise moment; to maintain a consistent pace and concentrate on the road ahead.
Things were going perfectly so far. My legs felt good, the weather was just right, the route was brilliant and every time my watch beeped another mile I noticed my splits were very, very similar. This was definitely a first in a race this long! The route took us into the beautiful village of Kenmore, over the bridge and into the grounds of Taymouth castle. The path wound round past the golf course, by the river Tay and then right by the castle itself before heading back out of the castle grounds towards the main road back to Aberfeldy. The route so far had been pretty flat or slightly undulating but here we hit the only hill on the course. Half way up it I thought to myself that this was fine, it wasn’t too steep and I dug deep to push to the top. I forgot to mention that this course consisted of 2 loops of the same route. So first time round, as expected, everything was going to plan. I continued to take everything as it came and I didn’t want to think how I might feel the next time we would hit this hill which unfortunately would be at around 21 miles into the race…
The route leveled out again and we passed another water stop, grabbed a handful of jelly babies from the marshals and continued out on to the gradual decline that followed for the next mile or so. This part of the route was pretty uneventful. The overgrown tree-lined road meant you couldn’t really see much of the beautiful surroundings so for now it was a case of focusing on my breathing and continuing to put one foot in front of the other. As we passed our 11 mile mark one of the half marathon runners flew past us at a great speed. The half marathon had started half an hour after us and slightly further down the road than our starting point, so this guy was absolutely flying!! We cheered him on and then fell back into line and continued our first lap back into Aberfeldy. The route passed the Black Watch memorial where there was another water station and a huge crowd of cheering, friendly faces from supporters who lined the street all the way along to the end of the first loop. At this point Derek pulled away to nip to the loo so James and I pushed on. We heard our names getting shouted out from the announcer as we ran by the half way point and listened to the shouts and cheers from the crowds for the half marathon runners, who were now rounding the final corner and sprinting towards the finish line. But soon enough everything grew quiet as we left them all behind and we were once again running along the quiet back roads to the sounds of our breathing and our feet hitting the tarmac over and over…
A few miles into the second lap, I started to get a sharp pain in my right knee that sent a piercing twinge up my thigh. I decided to slow the pace slightly and try to shake it off as the last thing I wanted to do at this stage was start walking, seize up and not get going again comfortably. I took a couple of paracetamol and pushed on, enjoying the slight downhill again and trying to push the pain to the back of my mind. Miraculously, it worked! The pain eased off and pace continued nice and steadily.
The second loop didn’t feel like as much of a chore as I had expected and every so often I realised I was actually still very comfortable and I started to really over think every little thing…
“Feeling great, speed it up a bit?”
“Still too long to go, not yet..”
“But what if it’s not possible in a few miles. Shouldn’t I bank some time now just in case?”
“Oh shut up and just keep going….”
Once I’d finished arguing with myself I realised we were coming up to the second climb of the nasty hill. There was no way I was slowing down now. My splits had been so even all the way up until now so I wasn’t going to let one measly half a mile climb throw me off for the final few miles. Digging deep, I pulled out all the stops and kept the momentum going all the way up and let out a little whoop of delight when I reached the top and felt the ground level out and my legs gained speed once again. Last 5 miles, here we go…
I can’t actually remember much about this part of the race apart from the fact the cars were passing by very closely and I started to feel a bit negative. James dropped back at about 22 miles with an injury and I started to slow slightly, thinking my legs were about to give up on me. I checked my watch and realised that even if i ran 11 minute miles, I’d still come in under 4 hours and suddenly I felt like I was being pushed along again. Nothing was going to take this away from me now…
Mile 22-26 splits: 9:42, 8:49, 9:14, 9:29,9:23
The last stretch of the route on the main road brought us back into Aberfeldy where we were met by two exceptionally cheery marshals who told us we were doing brilliantly and that we only had a few hundred meters to go. The pain had now returned in my legs and everything else also started to hurt. Just as I’d told Derek to push on ahead and that I was possibly about to die, I felt a pop and a horrible sensation in my shoe. A blister that I hadn’t even felt until now (thankfully!) had just burst and the pain was excruciating. I could see and hear the finish line, but I just couldn’t speed up. Even if I walked now I’d still make my time, but I’d run the whole race up until now so there was no way, no matter how much pain I was in, that I could walk now. I tackled the last hill on the bridge, flew down the other side and gave it everything I had left to run the final 50 meters down the road and into the field. Just as we entered the field and started down the finishers chute, Derek stepped aside and insisted I finish in front of him. So with one final push I fell over the line, wobbled a little and then lay down in the middle of the field while the world spun around me a little. I had just run a marathon in not only under 4 hours, but with 5 minutes to spare! How the hell did I manage that??!!
Once everything had stopped spinning, I sat up and was greeted and congratulated by my club mates and we stumbled into the refreshment tent to hoover up orange segments, caramel wafers and cans of coke. All the Wee County ladies had great races and ran amazing PB’s. It just goes to show that hard work and dedication really do pay off in the end. So proud of my wee running club once again!
The race entry fee also included access to a local health spa, so once everyone was in and we had collected our finisher certificates, we headed up for a swim and shower before all heading home – via the chippy of course – for some well deserved fizz and rest.
Now I’ve managed that time, I stupidly want to do it again and better it. I’m running Loch Ness again with Jemma in 3 weeks time but I’m just going to see how I feel on the day for that one. There are plenty more marathons out there just waiting for me and plenty of time to get faster.
And I think it’s definitely time for a new medal rack. This is just getting a bit ridiculous!