RACE REPORT – Alloa Half Marathon 2016

ALLOA HALF MARATHON 2016

TIME: 1 Hour 37 Minutes and 32 Seconds

OVERALL : 506/2301 finishers

CATEGORY: 25th/275 senior females

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It has been over a week since this race but I feel like haven’t had a spare couple of hours to sit down and write this report yet. Mainly because every time I’m not working or training just now, I’m asleep on the couch. Yes, WHW training is definitely starting to hurt, but more on that later….

The Alloa half marathon is my local half. The start line is a 5 minute walk from my front door and the race begins from the swimming pool where I work. I had absolutely no excuse not to go and give it another bash! This would be my 3rd time running it, having previously ran it in 2011 (my first half) and 2013 having to miss out in 2014 through illness and 2015 as we decided to stay in Stonehaven and party with friends the night after the D33 and the half was the following day. This year however there was a week between the 2 races and even though I knew I would still be tired, I decided to sign up anyway and it give it bash to see how my tired legs would manage and also as more training miles for the looming WHW race.

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I toddled along an hour or so before the race started and greeted all my club mates who were also running. All 80 odd of us! I haven’t been to training much over the past few weeks, as previously mentioned, as I really don’t enjoy plodding the same routes in the cold winter night, running too close to cars and getting in everyone’s way, so there were a lot of people I didn’t recognise. They probably thought I was the newbie! After wishing everyone good luck and getting a team photo, we all piled across the park and up to the start line, which this year had been changed to having time allocated pens as there were so many people running – over 3000 people entered which is double the number that ran last time I completed this event! I shuffled into my starting area and then noticed I was standing next to a guy with a 1:30 pace balloon attached to him. I panicked, but then noticed more of my club mates heading towards me, and the guy with the balloon headed further forward into the crowd. I had no idea what time I was aiming for. My legs were still a little creaky from the D33 the week before, but that aside I was feeling strong. I didn’t want to make excuses, as that usually results in a bad run so with the final decision of “give it everything until you fade”, the hooter went and we all surged forward and over the starting mats.

The first few miles were fast. I got swept along with the crowd and kept spying a 6:xx on my watch. Too fast? Who knows, I’ll just go with it! The route goes round through a housing estate, back onto the main road through Alloa before heading down towards Tillicoulty, follows a straight road along the Hillfoots for 4 miles before turning back up toward Tullibody, up a steep brae about 10 miles in, and back along the main road towards the Leisure centre where we started. It’s a great route and a fantastic course for a personal best, but something wasn’t right. What was that big bright thing shining in the sky? I have slogged through the winter months, churning out miles in the snow, sleet, wind and rain and come to one of the first races in the season and it was actually HOT! This I was not prepared for!

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As the road descended towards Tillicoulty, I noticed that my shoe didn’t feel right. I was wearing my normal road shoes and hadn’t changed my socks, so why was something rubbing 4 miles into a race?! I tried not to think about it, but as we rounded the corner I noticed somewhere I could jump out of the way of the crowds and try to fix my sock without getting in anyone’s way. Once adjusted, things felt slightly better and I carried on, grabbing a bottle of water and downing half of it and pushed on out of Tillicoultry. The road along the Hillfoots is amazing. You can see ahead for miles and it’s pretty much pancake flat. I know this route well and I knew there was nothing challenging until the Brae in a few miles, so I put my head down and started to pick people off as I powered along, still feeling reasonably fresh. More water in Alva, a wee downhill to gain some momentum and on towards Menstrie and the infamous Brae. As I passed the 10 mile marker I slowed down slightly to prepare myself. To be honest, the hill isn’t really that bad. I run it as part of my regular training route in the summer and usually enjoy it. It’s not even that steep, just pretty long but today it pretty much stole the last of my energy. I went from feeling awesome to feeling like I’ve just finished an ultra marathon in a split second and the top of the hill seemed a long, long way off! I plodded to the top, still maintaining 7:xx minute miles (but feeling like I was going backwards) and finally, there was the top! I was greeted with cheers from some friends and back on the flat I pushed on, through the last water stop at 11 miles and tried to summon the last of my energy to get to the end. Just as I was trundling up the last hill out of Tullibody (again, not really a hill but today it felt like a mountain!) Graeme from my running club caught up with me and demanded a piggy back! Graeme had also run last weekend and was now feeling it as well, so with one last push I managed to stick close to him and pick up the speed for the last couple of miles to the finish line. Just as I passed the 13 mile marker I spotted my Mum and she gave me a big cheer, so I powered over the line, overtaking a few more people as I ran up the finishing straight and finished in 1:37:32 – 6 seconds slower than my personal best! So close, and if I hadn’t stopped to fix my shoe maybe I would have set a new PB, but I was elated with my time as so chuffed to have nearly set a new PB the week after a fast Ultra!

Chasing people down along the Hillfoots...
Chasing people down along the Hillfoots…

I stumbled across the finish line to get my medal, picked up a t-shirt, water and banana and found all my team mates who had already finished and ran amazing times. So many new PB’s, first local lady for Eilidh and brilliant runs for many new club members running their first half marathon. Couldn’t have been prouder to be a Wee County Harrier that day!

I found my mum, had a quick wash and then for lunch in the sun. Another awesome weekend and has helped me to see my training is paying off. I can’t wait to run another half marathon on fresh legs and hopefully smash my half marathon time!!

WHW training report to follow. Less than 12 weeks to go…..

RACE REPORT -The Neil McCover Half Marathon 2015

THE NEIL MCCOVER HALF MARATHON 2015

TIME: 1 Hour 37 Minutes and 26 Seconds

Overall position 56th/146 finishers

9th/54 females

The half marathon has been my nemesis distance for quite some time. I clocked my last PB at Loch Leven back in May last year, just as I was recovering from illness and then every time after that I seemed to get further and further and further away from my time. I hadn’t raced many last year – the worst of all being Jedburgh in October where it was so windy my feet were getting blown from underneath me and my breath sucked out my lungs, and after that all my favourite races or good PB courses seemed to clash with other races or be on when I was on holiday. My first half of the year was the Haddington half in August – stupidly the week after the Devil O the Highlands, so I had absolutely nothing to give and slogged around, breathing out my arse and couldn’t wait until it was over. On finishing I promptly told my team mates if I was ever so silly as to sign up for a race the week after an ultra ever again they would be allowed to slap me.

So, a few months down the line and I noticed the Neil McCover half was coming around again the same weekend as Jemma was down for a wedding, so we signed up and looked forward to a run in the countryside near my home town and a good catch up with my new sister in law. Race day came and I wasn’t sure how I was feeling, but there was a tiny voice in my head screaming at me to do well. I silenced in, forgot about any pressure and prepared to run another enjoyable race on pretty fresh legs. What a race it was!

A few miles in and it's still all smiles for now!
A few miles in and it’s (sort of) all smiles for now!

Spits; 7:07, 7:30, 7:14, 7:30, 7:35, 7:24, 7:30, 7:33, 7:24, 7:58, 7:32, 7:38, 7:28…..

The first few miles were brilliant. I tried not to look at my watch and just enjoy the race and looked forward to seeing my parents at 5 miles as we ran through a village near where they lived. I spotted my mum from a few hundred meters away and flew by waving my arms around like a loon as my dad attempted to take some pictures, but round the corner and away from them it was time to continue to dig deep on this exceptionally undulating course. Through the 10k mark in just over 45 minutes and feeling fresh, a nice stretch of downhill and then, ooooooh big hill. It’s a sneaky hill in the it’s split into 2 sections; the first being a long slow climb up to the bridge over the canal and the second half a sharp steep hill to the top. Suddenly everything went a bit pear shaped as all at once the one ear phone I had in fell out, my ipod became unclipped from my shorts and I spilt juice all over my face. But not to worry, a quick glance at my watch and a bit of counting miles and splits on my fingers and I realised that even if I did the last 3 miles in just under 10 minutes I’d still get a PB. On one hand I felt like easing off the gas a bit and trundling home, on the other I wanted to give it my all and see if I could bag a huge PB in the only distance I was still struggling on for the year. So I chose the second option!

Starting to tire and heel strike :(
Starting to tire and heel strike 🙁
Last 100m, trying not to look at my watch!
Last 100m, trying not to look at my watch!

Coming back down the last 2 miles and I was running on the outskirts of my home town and on the very road I used to to cross county on back in my school days! The route was still not easing off and I continued to dig deep and give everything I had left to get to the finish line.

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1:37’26. Wooweeeeee, 9 minutes off my personal best and 15 minutes off my course time from 2013!

I’m absolutely over the moon with how good a season I’ve had and with one race left this year (Glen Ogle round 3!), I’m easing off for a few weeks now and am just back from enjoying a week in France and Switzerland with Craig, which involved a few huge treks up mountains, some paragliding and a train ride up a mountain railway to try and see the Matterhorn! No rest for the wicked 🙂

Roll on 2016. Who knows what huge events I’ll try and enter next year!!

The Mull of Kintyre Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

THE MULL OF KINTYRE HALF MARATHON 2014

Official time: 1 hour 56 minutes and 07 seconds

Overall: 88 out of 211

Category: 17th out of 40

Medal : Yes

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This race had been a Christmas present from Jemma and something I had been looking forward to for months. The day before the race Jemma and I decided to go and stay with my parents who were up at the boat in Loch Melfort. This at least took some of the pressure off for race morning although we’d still have an hour and a half to travel from there. We settled in for the night and enjoyed a lovely dinner and a few bottles of fizz. As you do the night before a serious race of course…

Race day came and when I woke up at stupid o’clock to see the rain pelting off the deck, I couldn’t think of anything less I wanted to do than race. With fingers crossed for better weather, we had our breakfast and a few cups of coffee then said our goodbyes and got on the road down to Campbeltown. With window wipers on full blast and windows steaming up every 2 minutes, I tried to lighten my mood but running in heavy rain is something I just cannot stand. Drizzle is fine. Or for a short distance heavy rain is fine. But 13 miles in the pouring rain was something I could live without. The journey down is a beautiful one, but when you’re stuck behind a couple of patient transport buses and with no possibility of overtaking it can get slightly tedious…

We arrived in Campbeltown with plenty of time to spare and set about getting our race numbers and finding a shop to buy some juice. By now the rain had stopped and it was starting to brighten up and as if by magic, so did my mood! Race numbers and time chips in place, we were ready for action! We’d decided months ago that this wasn’t going to be a race for a time by any means. This was one of the most beautiful places in the UK and there was no way I going to sprint around with my head down and miss all the beautiful views. Plus I was still feeling tired from giving it my all at Loch Leven a few weeks before, I needed time to recharge!

Pre race aerobics. Why on earth not?!
Pre race aerobics. Why on earth not?!
Serious pre race preparation going on here....
Serious pre race preparation going on here….

15 minutes or so before the race started everyone gathered in a field and began a pre-race aerobics workout along with a very energetic instructor up on a stage. Jemma and I bopped about outside the pen and threw a few shapes of our own. Why on earth not?! The sun was now out and all the serious runner types were mingling around the start line looking on with interesting facial expressions. Just before 10:30am everyone else joined them and with a count down of 3-2-1… we were off! The 10k and half marathon both started at the same time this year and just over half a mile in the 10k runners took a sharp left and left us half marathon runners climbing the long and gradual ascent out of Campbeltown and onto the beautifully scenic roads out to Machrihanish.

Photographer = spotted!  Photo - West Coast Photos
Photographer = spotted!
Photo – West Coast Photos

Miles 1-3 were along the main road out of Campbeltown before turning onto a side road and heading up another incline. We had said we were going to run about 8:30-9 minute miles and enjoy having a plod, but straight away we found ourselves galloping along at 8 minute miles and several times had to slow ourselves down quite a bit. Heading up to Machrihanish there was bit of a nasty hill so I put my head down and pushed up to the top. When I got to 5 miles I turned to grin at Jemma as I had noticed her shadow sitting on my shoulder the whole way up the hill, only to met with someone else. Sorry to the random who I was manically smiling at, I was just happy to be at the top of the hill!! Onwards, and mile 5 took us onto the golf course, up and over the dunes and then down onto the beach. Wow. It was just amazingly beautiful!

Photo - Kintyre Forum
Photo – Kintyre Forum

Running on sand = difficult! But this was perfect practice for the Black Rock 5 race which I am running again in 2 weeks. A brilliant race in Kinghorn in Fife and this year there are over 1000 people doing it. I can’t wait!
The beach section was an out and back loop of about a mile in total and on the way back I clocked Jemma and gave her a whoop and a high-five. We were both having so much fun!! I leapt across a river, ploughed through the soft sand and back up the bridge to the dunes. This section was really tough and my hamstrings were starting to feel like they had taken a beating. Finally we were back on the road and I decided now would be a good time to take a gel and some water as it had suddenly got really, really sunny! The route followed the same road back for another mile and then took a sharp left and onto a different yet just as undulating road back to Campbeltown. About 10 miles in I felt my pace really slow and I got really thirsty. Just how hot was it now? The last few miles saw us rejoin the main road and enter Campbeltown from a different direction and thankfully on a descent. By now I was really sore and tired and just ready to finish. Coming round one of the final bends I took my earphones out and dropped one of the covers so had to do a quick about turn to scoop it up, nearly tripping up the poor knackered man behind me. I couldn’t say sorry enough but he just laughed thankfully! Coming up to 13 miles the crowds thickened and everyone was cheering us in. The announcer at the finish line was clocking everyone’s numbers and shouting out their name as they came across the line which was just a lovely way to finish!

Photo - West Coast Photos
Photo – West Coast Photos

I was given my beautiful medal, t-shirt and goody bag and stumbled round to find some water. By now it was roasting and my shoulders were quite sunburnt. What a contrast from a few hours ago! I stood by the finisher chute to shout Jemma in and then we both collapsed on the grass for a few minutes to compose ourselves.
On the way home we stopped to take a few photos on Westport beach – another stunning beach on the west of the Mull of Kintyre. Such a beautiful place and somewhere I hope to visit again in the future.

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This was an absolutely stunning race that I hope to do again in the future, if even just to visit the beaches again! The goody bag was fantastic and I somehow ended up with 2 buffs in my bag. Don’t worry, they’ll get good use this winter!!

Thanks to everyone who helps make this race such a success and one of the most popular year after year. The medals are amazing. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!!

Post race sweatyness. Lovely!
Post race sweatyness. Lovely!
Loving my t-shirt!
Loving my t-shirt!

Race route photos from

The Loch Leven Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

LOCH LEVEN HALF MARATHON 2014

Official time: 1 hour 46 minutes and 28 seconds

Overall: 213 out of 532

Category: 23rd out of 102

Medal : Yes

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The Loch Leven Half Marathon was my first proper race of the year. After bouncing back following a course of iron tablets and a few months of amazing training, I was more than ready for it. With my ‘A’ race of the year being the Strathearn marathon in June I felt this was the perfect distance to stretch the legs at a good pace and see how I was feeling after 13.1 miles of pushing myself.

Kirsty came to pick me up on the Saturday morning and along with Susan and Andy, we made our way through to Kinross for race registration. We got there with plenty of time to spare, found parking easily and met up with the rest of our club mates at the school campus. Everyone has been training extra hard over the past few months for the marathon so all of us were feeling a bit sluggish and heavy and had the same outlook of ‘go out and see how we feel along the way’. Numbers on, final kit choice changes made and countless toilet visits later, we left the school campus and made our way a mile or so along the road to the starting area. The nerves were really starting to kick in. Even though my training had been going really well up until now and I had been feeling great, I still wasn’t convinced I’d be able to perform well on the day. But as always, at this point I could do no more and there was only one thing I could try and do – go out and fake it til I make it.

We all wished each other good luck, squished in for a few “welfies” (aka – ‘wee county harrier selfies’!) and before we knew it the horn had sounded and we were off! I got a pretty good start having chosen to set off at the side of the pack and passed by a few people who were all running side by side and taking up the majority of the road, until I nearly rear ended a guy who just stopped dead in front of everyone to fix his lace. My race was nearly over before it had even started! However, once were out of the starting lane and out onto the main road the pack spread out straight away and the race had properly begun. Here goes nothing!!

What a gorgeous bunch we really are!
What a gorgeous bunch we really are!

The race route follows the main road out of Kinross for 2 miles and then turns on to a quieter road that runs along beside Loch Leven. Even though there were countless signs advising drivers to slow down and that there was a race on, impatient drivers who couldn’t slow down or wait just a few more minutes were whizzing along beside us and cutting it very fine along side some runners. At one point later in the race I actually got knocked off balance by a gust of wind from a bus cutting it tightly around me as it overtook, but I’m sure the less said about that the better!

Runners taking over the road on the way out of Kinross. As we do :)
Runners taking over the road on the way out of Kinross. As we do 🙂

The first few miles flew by. I was trying not to look at my watch and just run my race comfortably, but I couldn’t help it and every time it caught my eye I was seeing 7:xx. So that was it, I was running a good race so far so I thought I might as well see how long I could keep it up. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d get to half way and feel a bit tired and then have to pull my pace back a bit? If so, then so be it. For now, the race was on!

    First half splits – 7:52, 7:40, 7:51, 7:58, 8:03, 8:00, 8:01

I had been pre- warned that there was a pretty nasty hill at about 8 miles just as you come into Scotlandwell, so with this in mind I downed a gel at about 6.5 miles and prepared for the worst. I somehow sailed up the hill, ticking off people one by one as I went. Where was this power coming from?! I was deep in the hurt locker and it wasn’t all plain sailing, but I flew out of Scotlandwell and onto the flat again just as my watch beeped 8 miles and I noticed I’d managed to keep my pace to 8 minute miles even up the hill! Feeling awesome I pushed on, knowing I was now comfortably over half way and I just had to keep this pace up to the finish line. By now the sun had come out of hiding and it was slightly too warm. There were 4 water stations on the course but unfortunately the bottles we were given didn’t have lids or sports tops, so it was a case of take what you can when you get it and then have to ditch it soon after or you’ll just spill at all anyway! I gulped down what I could and then poured the rest over my head before launching the bottle in the bins supplied just after the water stations.

Coming out of the last village on the route, I managed to pick my pace up a bit more and still comfortably running I glanced at my watch to see that unless disaster struck, I was more or less guaranteed a pretty big PB. My brain was a bit fried by this time and I had to concentrate hard to make sure my sums were correct. That’s my excuse for my race pictures being so awful. I knew fine well the camera was there and he actually yelled “SMILE!” at me, but this was the result…

"overtake, overtake - tick, tick... 3 miles to go, stick to this pace will make a pb?? Too much to think about, better stick out my tongue..."
“overtake, overtake – tick, tick… 3 miles to go, stick to this pace will make a pb?? Too much to think about, better stick out my tongue…”

The guy in front of me in this picture was one of the people I overtook on the uphill, but he managed to get past me again on the downhill and in doing so he started talking to me and telling me what the rest of the route was like. He really spurred me on and in the final mile and a bit he kept looking over his shoulder so I made it my goal to stick with him right til the end. The last mile was lovely and flat and followed an old railway route back into Kinross before cutting through a housing estate, up a sneaky steep hill and back onto the main road before turning sharply onto the grass of the playing fields to the finish. Still feeling strong I put my head down to push as hard as I could. Yes I could catch a few more people on this last stretch – tick, tick, tick. Yes, I still had something in my legs and YES! I could manage a sprint finish across the grass with a smile on my face and my arms in the air! I glanced at the race clock as I flew through the finishing chute and grinned as I got my timing chip cut off my shoe. A ONE MINUTE 47 SECOND PB?? YES! I’ll take that!! And first lady from WCH home as well! My smile couldn’t possibly get any bigger! My legs had turned to complete mush by now and my leg was shaking like jelly as the poor man tried his best to make sure he was just cutting off my chip and not half my foot as well! I staggered round to see my team mates and collapsed on the grass with a feeling of utter glee.

    Second half splits – 8:25, 8:23, 8:11, 8:02, 8:02, 8:09, (0.1 – 1:27)

I stood and cheered in all the rest of my team mates before Kirsty and I decided to call it a day and head home before the chills set in.

The goody bag contained a lovely medal, an awesome tin water bottle and the usual banana, water, chocolate and also a voucher for a drink and something off the bbq which had been put on for the runners. Not bad for a pretty cheap entry price of £18 (I think). I really enjoyed the race, everyone was very friendly and the race was well organised and marshaled. Thanks to all the lovely marshals who cheered me on throughout the race. I’ll definitely be back next year!

Race Route Photos – Gordon Donnachie.

Planning my return….

It has been a very difficult start to the year for me running wise. From the very beginning of January I was dragging my legs and huffing and puffing about like a steam train, hating every minute of my running and hating myself for hating it! Mid March I got round to going for a blood test and found out I was quite anemic and was prescribed a course of iron tablets for the next wee while. After I was given my results (my ferritin level being 2!) I asked my GP, half knowing the answer and half hoping these tablets would work miracles in a matter of days, if I’d be able to run the Alloa half the following weekend. He stared at me with a furrowed brow as he tried to figure out if I was joking or not! But of course in a round about way I was told not to be so silly and just get back to training first – gently!

Another reason I had really been looking forward to running it was even though it’d be my 3rd time running the route it would have been the first time since I’d joined the club. And wow, were the WCH out in force for this race!!

This lot were awesome. I was jealous but I got to cycle to various points and cheer them on!
This lot were awesome. I was jealous but I got to cycle to various points and cheer them on!

So, the race I had been looking forward to for a whole year was out. Our local half, the one in which I smashed my p.b by 5 minutes in last year and what was to be my first ‘A’ race of the year turned into my second ever DNS, but for the first time through not being able to run and having to stand on the sidelines and watch everyone else get hyped up for and run so well in! In my mind, and many others, a DNS (did not start) is ten times worse than a DNF (did not finish) or even a DLF (dead last finish) but this time the situation was outwith my control. Racing was physically not possible and my legs would definitely not thank me for even trying. I had to get over it and realise I was being silly – there were plenty more races and many more years of racing to get through. I’m only 30, so that’s pretty young for a runner and I can only plan to get better in the future.

I wasn’t ruling the day out though, so I took my bike and cycled the course to cheer them on and take pictures at various points. I lost count of the amount of p.b’s or course p.b’s set that day – every single runner did so amazingly well! Not the easiest course when they stick in Menstrie Brae (a hill lasting half a mile or so) at 10 miles into the race. At the end of the day we all regrouped and went for an Indian meal and few drinks at a local restaurant – I know I didn’t run, but who said I couldn’t celebrate everyone else’s success! Jemma also ran amazingly well coming in about 20 seconds outside her p.b. She’s now joined the Wee County Harriers until her and my little brother go traveling later this year, so look out for more orange and navy in that direction!!

I am two weeks into my course of iron tablets and I noticed a difference after a week. I was sleeping better, feeling better when I woke up in the morning and I wasn’t out of breath after the simplest of tasks or passing out on the couch as soon as I got in from work. Yes my job is very demanding and I’m always on the go, but getting home at 6:30pm and needing a nap by 7:30pm was very out of character for me! After a few weeks of avoiding training I decided to make my return to a hill reps session and I couldn’t have felt better or enjoyed it more! My mile splits are right back down and running up hills no longer makes me feel like every last molecule of oxygen is being sucked out of my lungs or that my quads are being hit with a hammer. I know it’ll take a bit longer, but I feel almost normal again!

What a difference some iron tablets have made! I know I have been screaming it from the hill tops, but I can’t advise it more – if you start to feel low for no apparent reason, your quads feel like your worst enemies and you suddenly feel out of breath like you should if you smoke 40 a day, then get your iron levels checked. I could have plodded on for months had my physio not told me that she had felt this way and that iron tablets made her bounce back within weeks!

I may have had to pull out of my first 2 favourite races of the year but I’m bouncing back and I’m ready to to take on the next one with gusto. Before that I will be helping out at the Highland Fling at the end of April and cheering on my club mates that are brave enough to race that distance. I’ll hopefully be joining them next year, but we’ll see how this goes first.

My running colours leave little to the imagination!
My running colours leave little to the imagination!
I'll be back. It's a slow return, but I'll get there...
I’ll be back. It’s a slow return, but I’ll get there…